BetuniQ, an online gaming company licensed in Malta with significant operations in the country of Italy, has temporarily closed its online gaming services following an early morning raid by Italian authorities Wednesday.
A report published by Malta Today states that authorities suspect the online gaming company, which offers poker and other games to customers, has ties to the ‘Ndrangheta mob syndicate. A video posted on the virtual newspaper’s webpage shows what appears to be the aftermath of the police raid, with an unidentified man being led out of the BetuniQ offices and into a patrol vehicle.
Reports claim that approximately €2 billion in assets have been seized in conjunction with the crackdown.
According to Malta Today, the licenses of all online gaming operations tied to the Uniq Group Limited and Betsolution4U Limited have been suspended.
A message on the BetuniQ official website — which includes a Malta Gaming Authority logo — notifies customers in Italian that services are temporarily suspended and that an update will be provided once information becomes available. The company operates over 1,000 betting kiosks throughout Italy where customers can place wagers.
Poker Tournaments Used as Money Laundering Mechanism?
According to some reports, BetuniQ sanctioned live Texas Hold’em poker tournaments in Malta that were in effect a tool to launder illicit funds. This allowed the transportation of ill-gotten gains from Italy to Malta, according to authorities.
A direct quote from the Malta Today says that “the mafia uses these multi-million legal betting operations for money laundering and tax evasion purposes,”
With BetuniQ’s online portal virtual shut down at the moment (some webpages on the official website claim that they are ‘under maintenance’), it is unclear how long BetuniQ patrons will have to wait to withdraw their funds, or if they will be able to at all.
The Uniq Group is a property of Start Games Limited, which is partly owned through a shareholder arrangement by GVM Holdings — the latter company has documented ties to former Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
This is not the first instance of a high profile online gaming arrest within Malta’s borders. In November 2014, Everleaf Gaming head Jean Pavili was detained and charged with misappropriation of player funds along with a multitude of other criminal acts.
The Everleaf brand became a focus point for US-based online poker players who were unable to recuperate their funds following the company’s exit from the United States market in 2013.