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Malta’s iGaming sector was responsible for 67% of all suspicious transaction and activity reports filed with the country’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) in 2021.

The island’s online gambling companies lodged 4,822 of the 7,218 reports received by the financial crimes agency last year, according to its annual report.

Malta’s land-based casinos were responsible for 138 of the reports, meanwhile, corresponding to an annual increase of 146%.

The FIAU’s annual report shows a general uptick in the reporting of suspicious transactions and financial activity across all business sectors, with more than 2,000 additional reports filed in 2021 when compared to 2020.

Reports submitted specifically by gaming companies also more than doubled in 2021 compared to the prior year as the industry once again topped the charts for sending in the most suspicious reports, ahead of all other business sectors.

In 2019, gaming companies filed 51% (1,445 reports) of all suspicious transactions reports, while in 2020 they accounted for 47.8% (2,485 reports).

The FIAU stated that 2021 was a challenging year as the country worked hard to get off the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force.

The FIAU further revealed it carried out 14 compliance examinations on gaming companies, significantly fewer than the 58 it did in 2020.

However, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) also carried out a combined total of 72 examinations on behalf of the FIAU in 2021.

The MFSA and MGA adopt the same process and methodology used by the FIAU when carrying out these examinations on the FIAU’s behalf.

Moreover, last year, the FIAU imposed administrative penalties following a compliance examination to the tune of €863,394 on gaming operators, as well as penalties for failure to carry out periodic reporting or late submissions amounting to €52,040.

In 38% of all reports, the primary reason for suspicion was an unknown source of wealth or funding, or a refusal on the person’s side to provide information or documentation on their source of wealth.

At 28%, the second most common reason for suspicion was unexplained or inconsistent transaction activity in a customer profile, such as a sudden large volume of deposits which did not add up with the customer’s known profile.

The top three suspected predicate offences highlighted in 2021 were fraud (mostly debit and credit card fraud), tax crimes (mainly corporate and personal income tax evasion) and chip dumping.

Finally, the FIAU announced that it shared 8,443 intelligence reports with both national and international authorities in 2021, an increase of 86% on the previous year.

You can read the report in full here.

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