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Operation Galaxy Unveils ‘Ndrangheta Mafia's €400 Million iGaming Money Laundering Scheme: Seizures, Investigations, and Ongoing Challenges

In a coordinated effort involving multiple Italian police departments, authorities have intensified their endeavors under "Operation Galaxy" to counteract the 'Ndrangheta mafia's encroachment into the betting and gaming sector. The focus of their operation unveiled a complex criminal enterprise engaged in the illicit collection of online bets, orchestrated through a Malta-based company.

Operation Galaxy Unveils ‘Ndrangheta Mafia's €400 Million iGaming Money Laundering Scheme: Seizures, Investigations, and Ongoing Challenges

Despite the company's registration in Malta, the de facto hub of the operation was identified within the 'Ndrangheta stronghold of Reggio Calabria, according to the police. Operating on an international scale, the scheme utilized registered companies with offices in Romania, Austria, and Spain, forming a network of shell companies to facilitate money laundering activities for the 'Ndrangheta.

The police elucidated the pyramid structure of the operation, revealing that leaders with direct ties to 'Ndrangheta ensured a portion of the proceeds in exchange for protective services. Profits generated were subsequently transferred abroad to evade Italian taxes.

In the course of their investigation, the police untangled the intricate web of the criminal network, leading to the identification of the central figure behind the scheme. Subsequently, the District Anti-Mafia Directorate has initiated collaboration with other police forces to conduct an in-depth investigation into the individual's involvement.

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A forensic examination by the police uncovered the assets controlled, both directly and indirectly, by the unnamed crime boss. The police emphasized that the total value of these assets was "disproportionate" compared to the declared income of the individual. Responding to this discovery, the Prevention Measures Section of the Court of Reggio Calabria ordered the seizure of the individual's assets.

In a subsequent move, the court issued a second order to seize assets associated with three interconnected iGaming companies, two Maltese trusts, including their financial portfolios, and other linked assets. The cumulative value of the seized assets amounts to €400 million. Additionally, the court imposed a two-year and six-month surveillance order on the crime boss and restricted their ability to leave the municipality.

The police underscored the significance of this operation, highlighting the meticulous attention of the financial police and Public Prosecutor's Office. Operation Galaxy, initially launched in May the previous year, had already seen the confiscation of €3 million in connection with an earlier investigation.

These developments occurred shortly after Malta released its latest Anti-Money Laundering (AML) risk report, which drew attention to the potential threat posed by organized crime-linked entities gaining control of registered iGaming companies. While the extent of mafia infiltration into Maltese iGaming remains uncertain, recent years have witnessed the Italian police uncovering various businesses linked to different mafia organizations.

In a related context, a report by a left-wing European Parliament MEP, released this month, alleged that organized crime has laundered billions of euros through Malta since its emergence as an online gambling hub. The ongoing efforts of law enforcement, as exemplified by Operation Galaxy, underscore the persistent challenges posed by criminal elements infiltrating the iGaming industry.



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