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A LeoVegas manager has been arrested alongside two others on suspicion of insider trading related to MGM Resorts’ $607m bid to acquire the operator.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that yesterday (10 November), three men were arrested on suspicion of serious insider trading. All three deny any wrongdoing.

According to the newspaper, one of them has a high-ranking position at the iGaming company and is said to have been present at an initial raid on the firm’s headquarters which took place in June this year.

He is suspected of having leaked secret information about MGM’s acquisition of the firm prior to the news going public.

Swedish District Attorney Pontus Hamilton told Aftonladet: “It is an ongoing investigation and we will see where it leads. We have no suspicions against anyone else at the company.”

MGM Resorts’ bid to acquire LeoVegas was made public on 2 May. LeoVegas’ share price rose approximately 40% on the day the offer was announced.

LeoVegas communications director Daniel Valiollahi: “As a company, we set high standards for ourselves when it comes to regulatory compliance, and since June we have cooperated with the authorities in their investigation.”

The stock trading that the three men are allegedly connected with took place between 1 February and 29 April, and according to Hamilton, it is suspected to have generated millions in profits.

Meanwhile, LeoVegas pointed out that the case was about “an employee and not a person on the board or management team.”

The operator’s communications director, Daniel Valiollahi, commented: “As a company, we set high standards for ourselves when it comes to regulatory compliance, and since June we have cooperated with the authorities in their investigation.”

In June, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority searched the Stockholm-based head office of LeoVegas after opening an investigation into alleged insider trading of the company’s shares.

No arrests were made at the time.

Following the raid, LeoVegas announced it was assisting the authority in the investigation.

Back then, the operator said: “No employee, member in the management team or board member in the company has been notified about any criminal suspicion.”

Australia’s financial crimes regulator has launched investigations into Sportsbet and bet365 over suspicions they have failed to comply with the country’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) rules.  

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) has ordered the appointment of external auditors to assess Sportsbet and bet365’s compliance with Australia’s financial crime law.  

In notices sent to Sportsbet and Hillside (Australia New Media) Pty Ltd, which operates as bet365, Austrac said it has “reasonable grounds to suspect” the two entities had contravened, or were contravening, Australia’s AML and CTF law.

In September, Austrac already kickstarted an investigation into Entain after suspecting similar compliance failures.

Sportsbet and bet365 external auditors are required to report to Austrac within 180 days and will assess whether the companies have adopted and maintained an AML/CTF programme that has risk-based systems and controls in place to effectively identify, mitigate and manage money laundering and terrorism financing risks.

Moreover, the auditors will undertake a risk assessment that considers the risk posed by the companies’ customer types, the types of designated services they provide and the methods by which they deliver those services.

Austrac CEO Nicole Rose: “Sportsbet and bet365 are amongst the largest operators in the corporate bookmaking sector. Austrac is putting the whole industry on notice to lift their game.”

The auditors will also ensure that Sportsbet and bet365 have a framework through which their boards and senior management have ongoing oversight of their AML programmes, while also checking that the firms are appropriately monitoring their customers with a view to identifying, mitigating and managing AML and CTF risks.

Austrac CEO Nicole Rose said non-compliance with the AML/CTF Act was a serious issue and that where systematic failings were identified, Austrac would intervene to ensure the integrity of Australia’s financial system.

“Sportsbet and bet365 are amongst the largest operators in the corporate bookmaking sector. Austrac is putting the whole industry on notice to lift their game.

“Ultimately, enforcing non-compliance is about protecting the community. Money laundering feeds organised crime and all the harm that comes with it.

“Austrac will not hesitate to take action where suspected non-compliance is identified, to protect businesses from being exploited and protect the Australian community from harm,” she added.

The financial crimes watchdog said the outcomes of the audit would assist Sportsbet and bet365 to comply with AML and CTF obligations, but it would also inform Austrac whether any further regulatory action was required.

It’s official: Malta has been removed from a list of jurisdictions with weak measures for combatting money laundering and financial crime.

Europe’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) confirmed the decision today (17 June) at the end of the FATF plenary meeting in Berlin, Germany.

Earlier this week, news spread through local media outlets that Malta was on track to be struck off the so-called grey list and added to the white list.

Malta’s iGaming industry widely welcomed the good news. Speaking to iGamingNEXT, however, key executives also expressed caution. They stressed the need for Malta to maintain the highest compliance standards to avoid being classified as a high-risk jurisdiction once again.

Alan Alden, Roger Strickland Jr, Russell Mifsud, Enrico Bradamante and Ivan Filletti

Enrico Bradamante, founder at iGEN

The gambling sector was relieved to see Malta exit the FATF grey list, said Enrico Bradamante, who commented on behalf of industry association iGEN.

iGEN commended the government and all the institutions that have worked to address the shortcomings reported over the last years.

The association now hopes that financial institutions will soon lift the enhanced scrutiny, which resulted in increased costs and operational complexity.

Russell Mifsud, gaming director at KPMG Malta

Elsewhere, Russell Mifsud, gaming director at KPMG Malta, said: “The grey list lifting brings Malta back its degree of credibility, while diffusing inherent scepticism at both operational and investor level.

“The journey of transitioning back to the white list gives Malta the opportunity to come back stronger than it has ever been and to continue building on its ecosystem as the iGaming capital of the world.”

He also pointed out that Malta’s challenge will be to maintain the rigorous standards it has committed to, while remaining business-friendly and sustainable when compared to other competing jurisdictions.

Roger Strickland Jr, iGaming director at CSB Group

Roger Strickland Jr, iGaming director at CSB Group, told iGaming NEXT: “The grey listing was more serious than many people admitted, and we now need to keep up the high standards.”

He added the enhanced due diligence had heavily affected banking transactions, while negative news about the country could have weakened investor confidence among those looking to acquire or buy into iGaming companies based on the island had Malta remained on the list for much longer.

Alan Alden, general secretary at Malta Remote Gaming Council

Meanwhile, Alan Alden, director of Kyte Consultants and general secretary of the Malta Remote Gaming Council said: “This is very good news for Malta. It’s a pity we had to go through the greylisting, but thankfully it didn’t last that long.

“Malta now needs to keep its reputation intact and build on the successes of the past. We hope to see an increase of new investors coming to Malta. We have a well-developed gaming ecosystem that is rearing to go.”

Ivan Filletti, CEO at iGaming Malta

Finally, Ivan Filletti, CEO of GamingMalta, a foundation tasked with promoting Malta’s iGaming sector internationally, said: “The FATF’s decision shows that Malta is a trustable jurisdiction fully equipped to fight financial crime.

“Our established gaming ecosystem, experienced talent and good governance framework will continue to not only support global businesses and start-ups alike, but also help them thrive.”

Malta will now work with FATF regional partner MONEYVAL, of which it is a member, to continue strengthening its AML regime.

Photo: © Hervé Cortinat / OECD

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) voted to remove Malta from its so-called grey list yesterday (15 June), according to various reports from Maltese media sources.

While the outcome of the vote has yet to be made official, both the Times of Malta and the Malta Independent reported that FATF member states had agreed to remove Malta from its list of jurisdictions with weak measures for combatting money laundering and financial crime.

Malta’s change in designation is the result of a secret vote taken at ongoing FATF meetings in Germany. The global financial watchdog will publish its official decisions on Friday.

According to the sources, the vote was taken by 37 jurisdictions and two regional organisations; the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council, which are recognised as members of the FATF.

While Malta did not have a say during the sittings, it is understood that the country lobbied other members to speak on its behalf.

Malta was added to the list of jurisdictions under increased scrutiny in June 2021, after the intergovernmental organisation found that it was not doing enough to combat financial crime. 

This marked the first time that an EU member state had been put under increased international scrutiny and enhanced monitoring by the FATF.

Malta was given a long to-do list and a detailed action plan to strengthen its anti-money laundering and funding of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework.

At its February 2022 meeting, the FATF announced that Malta had substantially completed its action plan and was ready for an on-site assessment. FATF representatives then visited the island in April.

Throughout the past year, the country has implemented several reforms and overhauled its compliance frameworks to ensure international AML obligations are met and its institutions have the power and resources to detect and prosecute financial crime.

Although Malta will be removed from the grey list, it will need to continue working with FATF and show that it is committed to preventing financial crime beyond the end of the greylisting.

The decision comes at a time when Malta’s Gaming Authority (MGA) has itself been shown to combat corruption in its ranks. 

The regulator’s former chief technology officer, Jason Farrugia, recently appeared in court on charges of money laundering alongside his wife, Christine.

Farrugia had left the MGA disgraced in 2021, after he was alleged to have leaked confidential and commercially sensitive information held by the authority. 

The Financial Crime Investigation Department of Malta’s police force subsequently launched an investigation, leading to the charges being brought against Farrugia in court.

Featured image credit: Hervé Cortinat / OECD