Malta Gaming Authority CEO Heathcliff Farrugia Resigns

Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) CEO Heathcliff Farrugia and chief regulatory officer Karl Brincat Peplow turned in their resignations on Tuesday, the Maltese government confirmed.

Farrugia and Brincat Peplow’s Possible Joint Venture Project

Mr. Farrugia was appointed CEO of the MGA in 2018 replacing Joseph Cuschieri, who became CEO of Malta’s Financial Services Authorities. He initially joined the Maltese regulator in 2014 as its COO and then moved to the position of chief regulatory officer in 2016.

With contracts due to expire early next year, Heathcliff Farrugia and Karl Brincat Peplow have both been placed on gardening leave with no administrative duties.

Mr. Farrugia told the MGA’s board of governors he had decided not to renew his contract in order to focus on other opportunities. The MGA says that Mr. Farrugia and Mr. Brincat Peplow have stepped down to start an unspecified joint venture project.

Two MGA Executives Investigated For Ties With Financial Crime

The timing of the departure is surprising, as it is uncommon for top executives to leave their firm without an extensive warning.

The MGA and Malta’s Financial Services Authority have been facing scrutiny as a murder investigation uncovered links between the agencies and the suspects.

Heathcliff Farrugia was recently questioned by the Maltese Financial Crime Investigation Department, over “suspicious communication” with Jorgen Fenech. Investigators arrested the casino operator in November 2019 for his alleged connection to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

Former MGA chairman and CEO Joseph Cuschieri had close ties to Mr. Fenech but says there was no conflict of interest. However, it has been determined that he still had connections at the MGA and was handling financial activity in Malta.

Malta To Pass Next Moneyval Test In Spring

Malta failed its first Moneyval anti-money laundering test in 2019,. As a result, criticism has intensified over the country’s tax rebate system. The island could face enhanced monitoring procedures if it fails to pass its next test in Spring 2021

Malta’s gaming sector generates about €1.56 billion supporting the economy and provides 7,417 jobs. It is therefore crucial for the country to take a stronger stance against financial crime.

The MGA announced in October that Malta-licensed sportsbook operators will need to report suspicious betting patterns to the agency from January.

The regulator also is expected to provide access to its Suspicious Betting Reporting Mechanism (SBRM) to all B2C-licensed operators from November.

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