Illegal lotto taking 30% of lottery market in Malta
Financial investigators claimed a nationwide illegal lottery is skimming off 30% of sales from Malta’s official national lottery.
The illegal lottery operates as a parallel to the national lottery and enables players to win substantial amounts of money by placing bets on a series of numbers and waiting for the weekly announcement of the national lottery’s winning numbers.
The illegal “national” lottery was first flagged during the arrest of Melvin Theumato in 2019. Theumato was the middleman in the assassination of a journalist and anti-corruption activist named Caruana Galiza.
In that same year, financial crime investigators focused their attention on Theumato, who reportedly had over €2 million in cash hidden at his residence during a raid.
Investigators said the current players behind the illegal ‘national’ lottery inherited the operation, or at least part of it, from Theumato, who turned in the state’s evidence after he was granted a presidential pardon.
“We estimate that 30% of the well over €30 million that gets played in the legitimate lottery market every year could be played in the illegal lotto,” A source said.
According to the source, a handful of major gambling operators control different regions of the island where the illegal lottery takes place, and their runners collect numbers in village bars and casinos, with some of these operators having connections to construction and the property market.
Investigators said that the individuals running the illegal lottery are believed to have strong connections to the construction or property speculation industries.
“They all have legitimate businesses; they are well known in town; they can be respectable types who get snapped with local politicians in the village fiesta,” An investigator said.
“But construction is important to them because it is a world where cash transactions are constantly used. And with the volumes of cash they collect on a monthly basis, well, it has to be cleaned somehow, or in some cases, given to charity, if it enhances their respectability.”