The Malta Independent 27 May 2019, Monday

Italian owner of Malta-based igaming company charged with money laundering

Monday, 22 April 2019, 15:21 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Italian owner of a Malta-based iGaming company suspected of laundering mafia funds has been denied bail after he was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant.

The 43 year-old Italian businessman – who cannot be named at the orders of the court – appeared before magistrate Astrid May Grima this afternoon.

Police inspector Mark Galea and lawyer Matthew Xuereb from the Office of the Attorney General told the court how the man was arrested at his Swieqi home after a request came up on the Schengen information system, following an extradition request and arrest warrant from a court in Reggio Calabria.

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The man is understood to be wanted by the Italian authorities to answer to charges that he laundered cash belonging to the Mafia through his iGaming company.

Inspector Galea presented the court with documents from the Italian authorities showing the man as being wanted by the Italian authorities. He asked that the man be extradited.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi did not contest the man’s identity as being the same as the requested person.

Azzopardi requested a ban on the publication of the man’s name, due to the fact that the requested person’s surname is common in Italy but not in Malta and because the requested person’s company employs some 80 people and the publication of his name would put their livelihoods in jeopardy.

The prosecution did not object to the request, which was then upheld by the court.

The defence also requested bail for the man. “He has been in Malta for 10 years and has a legal residence permit. His arrest required no force. Last December, the man and his lawyers in Italy and Malta had been spoken to by Europol and had asked that they be notified with his arrest warrant when it is issued. The Italian authorities know he lives here, he pays gaming tax in Italy. He has property in Malta and employees here. He has known about this arrest warrant since December and had more than ample time to abscond,” said the lawyer, adding that third party guarantors were available in Malta and that the man had strong ties to Malta.

The lawyer downplayed the allegations, saying that the Italians wanted his client to pay corporate tax in Italy.

Lawyer Matthew Xuereb pointed out that the man faced 7 years in an Italian prison, objecting to bail as it was “far too early” in the proceedings to release the man from custody.

Azzopardi argued that there was no fear of lack of ties to Malta at all and that the man was “prepared to pay for a fixed point police guard outside his house himself.”

“Why should he spend 3 days in custody when he’s going to be granted bail on the first sitting proper?” asked the lawyer.

The court, after hearing the submissions on bail, rejected the request at this stage.

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