Date: 06.02.2024

by Mateusz Mazur

Italian Authorities Target Online Gambling Network in Operation Galaxy

In a major crackdown on illicit gambling activities, the Italian Guardia di Finanza has conducted a series of asset seizures targeting a Malta-registered company deeply entrenched in the online gambling and betting industry.

This operation, aptly named ‘Operation Galaxy’, has brought to light the intricate connections between the gambling sector and the notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia, culminating in seizures worth €400 million.

Unraveling the Mafia’s Web

At the heart of this investigation is entrepreneur Antonio Ricci, who is accused of creating a sophisticated criminal system for collecting online bets unlawly. The operation, originating from Reggio Calabria, extended its reach across European borders to Malta, Romania, Austria, and Spain, revealing a complex network of illegal gambling operations linked to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

The investigation has uncovered arrangements between bookmakers and the criminal group, aimed at bolstering their economic stronghold in Calabria in exchange for protection and brand promotion. These agreements facilitated the evasion of Italian taxation, with profits being funneled to the organization’s administrative bases abroad.

Asset Seizures and Legal Actions

Following a thorough economic-patrimonial investigation authorized by the District Anti-Mafia Directorate, the Court ordered the seizure and subsequent confiscation of three online gaming and betting companies, two Maltese trusts, and their associated financial assets, totaling an estimated value of €400 million. Ricci now faces a Special Public Security Surveillance order lasting two and a half years.

Malta, recognized for its pioneering role in online betting regulation since 2004, maintains stringent regulatory standards within the EU. The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) actively enforces anti-money laundering obligations to ensure a fair gambling environment. In light of recent events, the MGA has clarified that Antonio Ricci has no connections with the MGA nor forms part of any licensed gaming company’s ownership structure.

Our Comment on the Article

The revelations from ‘Operation Galaxy’ underscore the critical need for stringent regulatory oversight in the online gambling sector. The collaboration between Italian authorities and international partners highlights the importance of cross-border cooperation in dismantling criminal networks that exploit the gambling industry.

As the industry continues to evolve, such proactive measures are essential in maintaining the integrity of online gambling and protecting the interests of legitimate operators and players alike. The ongoing efforts by regulatory bodies like the MGA to clarify associations and enforce compliance standards reinforce the collective commitment to a transparent and responsible gaming ecosystem.