- Wirecard processed millions for mafia-controlled unlicensed betting shops
- Report into Malta-based Betuniq triggered massive raids across Italy
New connections between collapsed payments firm Wirecard, the Italian mafia and numerous illicit gambling payments have emerged from police documents seen by VIXIO.
A confidential report written in 2014 by Italian financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, reveals that folded German payments company Wirecard processed a large number of transactions for Betuniq, a Malta-based company connected to the ‘Ndrangheta crime family.
The document, which was sent to anti-mafia investigators in Reggio Calabria in 2014, claims that Wirecard re-charged money to so-called “master accounts” managed by hundreds of Betuniq betting shop dealers.
Through these online accounts, winnings were paid out to players and gross gaming revenues were transferred to the Maltese company.
The police document led to an international investigation by Guardia di Finanza, discovering a “Wirecard Bank Ag” account held by Uniq Group Ltd along with several financial transfers.
According to the report, from August 22, 2013 to July 2, 2014, a total of €3.88m was moved out of Italy using Wirecard services.
Financial investigators were able to pinpoint at least €2.17m originating from unlicensed Betuniq betting shop dealers.
Betuniq’s owner turned super-informant Mario Gennaro is currently serving a sentence of three and a half years in prison for mafia-related crimes.
Wirecard crumbled into insolvency last month after revealing it was unable to locate €2.2bn in missing funds and is now the subject of a mammoth accounting fraud investigation in Germany.
On Monday, the Financial Times reported that Centurion Bet, another Maltese online casino run by the ‘Ndrangheta, also had its payments processed by Wirecard.
In July 2015, a few months after the confidential Betuniq report was written, anti-mafia prosecutors launched the “Gambling” operation, which ultimately lead to 41 major arrests.
The police swoop on organised crime figures was dubbed “Black Wednesday” by the Italian gambling press and saw €2bn in assets seized in raids targeting 1,500 betting shops, 82 gambling websites, 45 Italian companies and 11 foreign firms.
Two online licences issued by the Malta Gaming Authority, including Betuniq’s, were suspended as a result.
The crimes committed by the defendants, according to prosecutors, involved the acquisition of licences and concessions in Austria, Romania, Malta and the Dutch Antilles to hide illegal activities and bypass tax and anti-money laundering laws.
The subterfuge allowed the a branch of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia known as the Tegano family to execute widespread infiltration of the Italian gambling market.
Gennaro, who admitted to being an affiliate of the Tegano family, claimed to have been a central figure in this operation, smoothing the way for Italian mobsters to operate shadow gambling businesses hidden from regulators and law enforcement.
His statements to police led to numerous arrests and triggered investigations across Italy.
“In some areas of the country, it is essential to implement agreements with organised crime, in order to be able to work with the brand of games and online betting”, Gennaro told prosecutors.
He was sentenced to three years and six months in prison, instead of nine years, in light of the information he had provided to the investigation.
The Calabrian ’Ndrangheta is one of Europe’s most powerful organised criminal groups, engaging in industrial-scale cocaine trafficking, as well as extortion, arms smuggling, money laundering and murder.