Malta’s Illegal Lottery Exposed During Investigation of Journalist’s Murder

Posted on: April 24, 2023, 03:31h. 

Last updated on: May 29, 2023, 03:04h.

The murder case of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 remains active today. A new report indicates it may have exposed a massive illegal lottery operation still running today.

Emergency personnel at the scene of the bombing that killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia
Emergency personnel investigates the scene of the 2017 bombing that killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The investigation into her murder exposed an illegal lottery in Malta. (Image: Getty Images)

Almost six years ago, Caruana Galizia was murdered by a car bomb while working on a story about government corruption.

New reports indicate that the investigation also may have uncovered an illegal lottery operating in the open across Malta, according to Malta Today. If the figures are accurate, it could be responsible for taking 30% out of the legal lottery market.

Before her death, Galizia linked then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and other high-ranking government officials with, at the very least, questionable activity. The individuals’ names appeared in the Panama Papers, which uncovered widespread abuse of power, money laundering, and other crimes.

Galizia’s assassination gained international attention and forced an investigation after Muscat refused to open an inquiry.

That attention, in part, eventually led to Muscat’s resignation. It also led to the arrest of Yorgen Fenech, an influential gambling entrepreneur and one of Malta’s richest people.

Fenech is allegedly responsible for orchestrating the Galizia assassination.

Connecting the Dots

After Galizia’s death, Melvin Theuma, a local criminal who allegedly helped set up the attack for Fenech. Following his arrest, Theuma agreed to testify about everyone who had a role in the plot in exchange for a pardon.

Investigators learned about the lottery through Eheuma’s testimony. Before his arrest, Theuma was allegedly one of the people responsible for running the lottery. However, citing affirmations from financial investigators, Malta Today reported that it’s alive and well.

The illegal “parallel lottery” follows the legal lottery closely. Players choose numbers in the parallel lottery just like they would for Malta’s established lottery. They hope to get them right when the real lottery draw occurs each week’s end.

One of those investigators, whose name wasn’t revealed, asserted that “30% of well over €30 million (US$32.96 million)” from the legal lottery runs through illegal channels yearly.

Behind the illegal operations are legitimate businesses, often in the construction industry. They can move large amounts of cash disguised as construction costs, which helps them easily launder money without being detected.

Robust Industry

The investigation into the illegal lottery revealed different “districts” or zones controlled by the operators. They all have regular customers eagerly participating in illegal activity and running huge debts with criminal groups.

The operations have been ongoing for at least 30 years, and the local police allegedly know about them. Until now, nothing has stood in the way. But that could change with Theuma’s testimony.

Financial investigations are increasing, which means enforcement may pick up as well. Malta is trying to clean up its image, and any hint of widespread criminal activity in the open only damages its reputation once again.