Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has formed a new anti-money laundering (AML) unit to root out organized crime activities and restore Malta’s public image.
The new MGA AML Supervisory Unit has been in full operation as it conducts on-site and off-site inspections among MGA license holders since December last year. This unit was also involved with joint-activities with Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). The new AML team, however, have just officially debuted this month.
The formal launch of the latest AML unit came a day after Malta’s regulatory body launched a probe into its Italian license holders. The arrest of Benedetto ‘Betting King’ Bacchi in Italy initiated the probe after his MGA-licensed gambling site showed involvements with organized crime.
Directives and Goal of the New Anti-Money Laundering Supervision
Malta has been under intense criticism due to local media reports of Italian crime groups’ attempt at infiltrating the country’s iGaming industry. MGA has slammed this reports and stated that these are intended to harm the country’s reputation for its quality gaming jurisdiction. The regulation group stated that any plans to infiltrate Malta’s regulated market are likely to fail because of the MGA’s strict compliance and criminality checks.
The arrest of the ‘Betting King’ has strengthened the claims of local media reports which further damaged Malta’s reputation in the iGaming market. This is a serious issue since Malta’s gaming sector contributed more than 12% of the national GDP during the first part of 2017.
Intensifying the on-site and off-site inspections with the latest AML team for 2018 can help root out a significant amount of links to any organized crime groups within the regulated market. Joseph Cuschieri, executive chairman of the MGA, said he wanted better collaboration efforts with the authorities in Italy. This can lead to effective inspections of Italian based license holders.
Malta’s Plan to be ‘Blockchain Capital of Europe’
Meanwhile, MGA has shown interest in cryptocurrency in recent months. Its latest AML supervisory unit may be instrumental to the regulatory body’s effort to accept Bitcoin and other decentralized digital money.
The regulatory body saw Bitcoin as a risk a year ago. MGA, however, changed its tune to cryptocurrency months after Cuschieri said his office cannot maintain a passive mindset.
MGA takes careful steps to accept Blockchain-based currencies. This includes the use of a sandbox test to see the impact of cryptocurrencies on its regulated market. It has also issued a call for interested parties to register to cryptocurrency projects and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT). These steps help move the country’s goal to be the authority of Blockchain technology in Europe.
Protection of consumers and license holders is the priority of MGA. This is why it is careful to adopt Bitcoin or other altcoins to Malta’s regulated market. The in-depth probe of the new AML unit may help with the efforts of cryptocurrency acceptance. It can ensure that the digital currencies are not used to finance criminal activities or to fund organized crime groups.