This week was like a long, tough night at the virtual tables as authorities in Malta hit an online gaming company with a big fine over AML failures; the UK's gambling commission imposed financial penalties on two online casinos for money laundering and social responsibility shortcomings; and a Macau woman faces prison for her role in an illegal online gambling and money laundering case.
Find out more on these stories below.
Maltese financial watchdog fines online gaming company for multiple money laundering failures
Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) has fined Online Amusement Solution Limited €386,567 (£322,278) for breaching 11 regulations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The FIAU noted in a statement that the policies of the Birkirkara-based ‘remote gaming operator’ were not in line with Maltese anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations.
The FIAU carried out a site inspection of the operator in 2019 and announced the penalty on 14 January 2022. Inspectors found that the operator had no automated transaction monitoring system in place and flagged 16 players whose betting behaviour should have triggered AML/CFT alerts.
Among the catalogue of AML/CFT failings were:
- A 25-year-old gambler made 68 deposits with prepaid cards in a single month, and over time withdrew €117,000 (£97,542), which did not set off any AML/CFT alarms
- A 23-year-old gambler deposited over €10,000 (£8,337) using a stolen credit card over two months. Although the operator suspended the account when this came to light, no suspicious transaction report was filed, and FIAU inspectors noted that enhanced monitoring should have taken place earlier on
- The FIAU profiled 31 players and found that the operator conducted risk assessments of just six. Additionally, 28 of the profiles did not show the players’ occupations or professions
In announcing the penalty, the FIAU noted that “the impact that these [AML/CFT} failures could potentially have on the operations of the Company, on the Gaming industry and on the local financial system were also taken into consideration.”
Read more on this story at the Times of Malta.
Two UK online casinos fined for money laundering and social responsibility breaches
The UK Gambling Commission, which monitors and regulates in-person and online gaming enterprises, issued fines totalling £1.3 million to two Channel Island-based online casinos.
Jersey-based Annexio Limited will pay £612,000 for both Social Responsibility code contraventions, and breaches of the license condition put in place to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Alderney-based Rank Digital Gaming Limited will pay £700,557 for violations of the Social Responsibility code.
The Commission noted in a public statement that Annexio Ltd had breached six license condition and code of practice regulations. The statement also acknowledged the company’s co-operation with the Commission, the remedial action steps taken, and that there was no evidence of Annexio benefitting from the proceeds of crime.
Rank Digital Gaming Ltd was found to have violated three license condition and code of practice regulations, all in relation to social responsibility. The Commission did, however, take note of the company’s co-operation, remedial steps, early admission and disclosure, and settlement offer.
The Commission’s Executive Director said that “those businesses that fail to meet these standards will find themselves facing costly regulatory action.” The settlement money will be used to support the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
Read more on this story at Gambling Insider.
Macao court hands suspended prison sentence to woman involved in Suncity money laundering case
Macao’s Court of First Instance sentenced a woman, known only as Ho, to a nine-month suspended jail term for refusing to divulge evidence in a money laundering and illegal online gambling case involving Suncity Group founder and owner and so-called ‘Junket King’, Alvin Chau Cheok-wa. Ms Ho, who will also ‘donate’ MOP$5,000 (£460) to the Macau Special Administrative Region within three months, is believed to have played a senior role in the now defunct junket group.
She is believed to have been one of 11 arrested in late November 2021, including Alvin Chau Cheok-wa, the then-CEO of Suncity. A 2019 investigation by the Macau Judicial Police exposed a possible criminal group which exploited VIP lounges at casinos to entice high rollers into forming networks of illegal online gambling platforms, including running operations involving mainland China.
Ho, Chau, and the others face some or all a raft of charges which carry possible jail terms if convicted, including:
- Leading a criminal association (up to 12 years)
- Participating in a criminal association (up to 10 years)
- Money laundering (up to eight years)
- Illegal gambling (up to three years)
The locally licensed junket operator of the Suncity Group, Sun City Gaming Promotion Company Limited, closed in early December 2021 and remains shut.
Read more on this story at Macau Business.
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