Italy Cuts Off ‘Ndrangheta Pipeline that Funneled Money Through Gambling Ops


Italian police continue to hammer the ‘Ndrangheta mafia’s operations. Law enforcement officials have arrested hundreds of people over the past couple of years, and police in Italy attacked again this week. They cut off a financial lifeline that reportedly moved millions of dollars through gambling platforms.

Officers with Italy's financial crimes police conduct a routine patrol
Officers with Italy’s financial crimes police conduct a routine patrol. The agency has seized assets they say were the result of businesses funneling money for the ‘Ndrangheta mafia. (Image: AFP)

Investigators with the Provincial Command of Reggio Calabria, a city in Southern Italy where the ‘Ndrangheta is based, have confiscated assets worth €3 million (US$3.23 million). The seizure, according to Italian media outlet Ansa, is attributable to two entrepreneurs from Reggio, operating mainly in the gaming and betting sector, who allegedly helped the global criminal organization launder money.

This is just the latest initiative to break up the mafia’s control. Earlier this month, police arrested over 130 people in different countries they say were part of the ‘Ndrangheta. That enforcement action was an extension of arrests made over the past 12 months.

Chipping Away at Mob Control

Through Operation Galaxy (Galassia in Italian), an Italian law enforcement initiative, it surfaced that unidentified business owners had been operating a complex and lucrative criminal system. Their objective was to facilitate betting through an elaborate network headquartered in Reggio Calabria.

They had also established a worldwide network by means of companies with offices in Malta, Romania, Austria, Spain, and elsewhere. The operating model begins with the leader at the top of the pyramid who promotes the organization and ends with the customer, the final user. This group has been accused of having connections to the ‘Ndrangheta.

According to reports, top officials within the organization had purportedly reached an agreement with the mafia to turn over a cut of their profits. In exchange, the ‘Ndrangheta offered protection and allowed the organization to participate in both online and local business ventures.

Funds collected in various countries were then funneled to the company’s businesses. They operated across multiple countries to avoid detection by regulatory authorities.

Those branches that are registered in Austria and Malta have established permanent installations in Italy, as well. These make up a national network composed of multiple business centers scattered throughout the country.

Their operations mainly entail collecting wagers on games, as well as the operation of illegal websites to facilitate the activity. Some of the sites were also managed by the entrepreneurs who were implicated in Operation Galaxy.

Detailed Paper Trails

The entrepreneurs maintained meticulous documentation of all aspects pertaining to their enterprise. They possessed an exhaustive inventory of key personnel, marketers, and administrators associated with the online platforms that promote unlawful betting schemes.

This attention to detail allowed investigators to establish the precise assets under the organization’s direct control. It also made it easy to break down the sophisticated delineation of interrelationships.

The value of the assets didn’t match the money the legitimate businesses were handling. Consequently, the Court of Reggio Calabria seized 11 homes, three parcels of land, and various financial assets.

There will be additional fallout going forward, as well. More details will be provided as an inquiry progresses, but it seems that the Italian supermarket chain Eurospin is now facing accusations of collusion with the ‘Ndrangheta. An extensive legal investigation is underway to dissect the operations of the company.

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