Posted on: December 19, 2021, 01:40h.
Last updated on: December 20, 2021, 09:16h.
Police are investigating a former executive at the Malta Gaming Authority after he was “caught red-handed” misusing sensitive internal information, The Times of Malta reports.
The agency’s ex-chief technology officer, Jason Farrugia, is suspected of accessing confidential and commercially sensitive information. Sources told the Times the breaches were uncovered after a routine review of his work devices found he had been moving the sensitive data from the MGA servers to his personal account.
The sources said agents from Malta’s Financial Crime Investigation Department are now working to ascertain just what he planned to do with the information.
In a statement, the MGA said Farrugia resigned Thursday after he was told he would be fired and reported to the police. He had worked for the agency for ten years.
“The MGA hereby declares that Jason Farrugia, formerly Chief Officer Technology within the MGA, no longer has any connection to the MGA and can no longer represent it or speak on its behalf,” the regulator said.
This is the latest scandal to rock the MGA, which is responsible for overseeing Europe’s foremost online gambling jurisdiction and an industry responsible for 12 percent of the tiny island state’s GDP.
The agency’s former CEO Heathcliff Farrugia (no relation — Farrugia is one of Malta’s most common surnames) resigned in January after he was charged with corruption. He is accused of trading in influence with Yorgen Fenech, a casino owner and businessman suspected of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Caruana Galazia died in a car bomb attack in October 2017. Police believe she was killed because she was investigating government corruption linked to the award of an energy contract to a company controlled by Fenech.
Fenech is one of Malta’s richest men. He was arrested trying to flee Malta on his yacht in February 2019. That’s after a so-called “middleman” in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder identified him as the man who ordered the hit. He denies the charges.
While investigating Fenech, police uncovered incriminating conversations between Farrugia and the casino owner on the latter’s phone.
Status Under Threat
According to authorities, Farrugia provided Fenech with commercially sensitive information about rival casino operators.
It is not clear whether Farrugia is accused of accepting kickbacks for supplying the information. The investigation was initially kept under wraps to avoid harming Malta’s reputation as a gaming jurisdiction. It was eventually uncovered by The Times of Malta.
Operators have long been drawn to Malta by its competitive tax rate, beneficial regulatory system, and EU membership, which has afforded it fluid financial services with the rest of Europe.
But the country has become a hotbed of financial crime, and in June it became the first EU state to be graylisted by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The demotion could have significant repercussions for its economy, including its online gaming industry, as its banking sector becomes less agile and more expensive to engage with. Now, companies based in Malta will be assumed to pose a higher risk and will be subject to more financial red tape.
This will limit its appeal as an online gaming jurisdiction, and for investors in general.