The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) in Malta released its Annual Report 2019 showing a continuation of the upward trend in the number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) since 2010. Led by remote gaming companies’ reports which accounted for 52% of the 2,778 total cases reported to the monitoring body and surpassed credit institutions, the total STRs set a 5th consecutive year of increase.
Remote Gaming Sector Reports
The number of STRs reported from the remote gaming sector for the observed period more than doubled year-on-year, from 700 in 2018, to 1,445 flagged suspicious cases in 2019, but the upward trend acceleration speed between 2017 and 2018 of more than 300% slowed. Still, the more than 100% increase in the sector reports beat the 65% increase in the total number of transactions.
STRs from the remote gaming sector were filed by 81 business entities, FIAU outlined in its analysis, pointing to an increase in the number of reporting companies by 29 compared to 2018. In addition, 36 of these 81 organizations which filed STRs during 2019 did this for the first time.
FIAU noted that despite the 55% increase in the number of entities from the remote gaming sector, 32% of the total STRs from the sector were sent by only 3 companies, attributing the other 989 suspicious cases to 78 firms.
In terms of reasons for filing a transaction for review, fraud dominated with 24% of the cases submitted to FIAU by remote gaming operators, way ahead of the other predicate offenses such as forgery, tax-related crimes, participation in an organized criminal group and theft.
More than half of the reports submitted for review from the industry contained no predicate offence, being justified as in the previous years by a behavior inconsistent with the known profile of the person. 47% of the STRs in the sector referred to such a behavior, while another 32% cited lack of sufficient documentation provided by the person.
STRs originating from the remote gaming sector had a very high international element and information FIAU received through these submissions accounted for 35% of the spontaneous intelligence reports the financial monitoring body shared with foreign financial watchdogs in 2019.
STRs from Casino Licensees
In addition to the cases flagged by remote gaming operators, casino licensees added another 34 STRs, up 42% compared to the 24 reported in 2018. Operators cited tax crimes, participation in organized crime groups, racketeering and illicit trafficking as suspected predicate offenses for the STRs they submitted, usually prompted by inconsistent behavior or adverse information not in line with the customers’ profiles.