Mafia in Malta: From drugs and gambling to farms and shoes in six months
Malta’s proximity to Italy, the ease with which customs checks are avoided and the ins and outs of EU membership “have facilitated the ‘migration’ of various Italian organized crime matrices to Malta”, according to the Direzione Investigativa Antimafia (DIA) report for the second half of 2021.
The DIA report, tabled in the Italian parliament on Friday, says Malta’s “privileged” tax system and business-friendly regulatory framework “are factors that have fostered considerable money laundering activities by various mafia clans”.
In recent years, investigative activities show that the Italian mafia makes extensive use of Malta’s online gambling sector, where mobsters linked to the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta clan are most prevalent.
According to the DIA, the geographical proximity to Malta could, moreover, be a determining factor in the “preferred choice” of Italian mafia clans, and in particular Sicilian clans, of Malta as a place where their associates hide for periods of time. .
The results of recent investigations, reports the DIA, have shown how the Pesce and Bellocco clans of Reggina brought large amounts of cocaine from South America to Malta by other European countries.
During the second half of last year, the ‘Ndrangheta, according to the DIA, confirmed its ability to extend its interests even outside regional contexts by concluding pacts and alliances with different mafias.
This, he said, stemmed from Operation Crypto, which involved Malta, and which was carried out by the Catanzaro Guardia di Finanza on September 14, 2021.
The operation, DIA reported, “exposed and disrupted a complex criminal consortium made up of high-level subjects operating in the territories of Rosarno and Gioia Tauro dedicated to international drug trafficking on the new Rosarno – Catania – Malta route.
“The transnational organization planned imports of cocaine from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Spain, and succeeded in supplying the most important local drug trafficking centers and Malta.”
Italian anti-Mafia investigators are also concerned about the greater criminal synergies being created between Calabrian and Sicilian clans.
Evidence of this news Red stringthe DIA highlights Operation “La Valletta” carried out on December 1, 2021. This is, he says, a case in point which highlights the existence of a drug trafficking cartel operating between Sicily, Calabria and Malta.
The criminal network included members of the ‘Ndrangheta Mazzaferro clan and individuals from Malta, Ragusa and Albania. According to the DIA, the narcotics were trafficked on a route from Albania and, after transiting through Puglia or Calabria, they reached the organization’s operational base in Ispica, Sicily. From there, reports the DIA, the drugs would be resold in Malta.
The Malta-Sicily contiguity “very favorable to the development of illicit traffic”
“This operation further reaffirms that the contiguity between the islands of Malta and Sicily is highly favorable to the development of illicit trafficking,” the DIA said.
The DIA draws the same conclusion from the “Alter Ego” anti-drug operation carried out in November 2021. This operation, according to the DIA, allowed it “to highlight the role played by certain personalities of the Santa Paola and Cappello families – by highlighting their relations and contacts, as well as the dynamics of trafficking and the supply of large quantities of drugs across borders, for onward sale even in Malta”.
But it is in illegal bookmaking and money laundering through illicit online gaming servers that the mafia clans do excel in Malta.
For example, the DIA sheds light on the November 18, 2021 “Game Over II” operation involving individuals linked to the Passo di Rigano and Noce families. The ring was illegally collecting various types of bets through websites owned by bookmakers with servers based in Malta.
It also notes the “Ludos” operation of September 30, 2021 which identified a criminal association engaged in online gambling and betting through illegal sites with ramifications in Malta.
In addition, in the second half of last year alone and in the same vein, on July 20, 2021, an investigation by the Messina public prosecutor’s office resulted in the seizure of 3.5 million euros in assets belonging to the legal representative of a Maltese company.
A Malta-based money laundering case dubbed “Agricultural Fund” was hacked on August 12, 2021. The DIA explained how a Messina man ran a Maltese front company for the “exclusive purpose of engaging in tax evasion and, above all, to benefit from the contribution to the production of renewable energy from the Italian agricultural payment agency AGEA”.
The IAD also used the ‘Piccadilly’ operation to illustrate how Malta is used to set up shell companies aimed at tax evasion for directors of footwear and clothing companies who have made ‘multiple transfers’ of funds to Malta, the UK, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Poland.