Scandal-plagued German FinTech pioneer Wirecard counted among its payments processing clients an online casino that laundered money for an arm of "one of Europe's most dangerous mafia organizations," the Financial Times reported on Monday (August 3).
The paper cited documents and "Italian legal sources" in its story about the organized crime syndicate ’Ndrangheta and CenturionBet, an online gaming company based in Malta.
The Financial Times reported that Wirecard's relationship with CenturionBet ended in 2017, “when its gambling license was suspended by Maltese authorities and it ceased trading after an anti-mafia raid that saw 68 people arrested." The FT added: "Since then, more than 30 people have been sentenced for mafia-related crimes linked to the case."
Wirecard declined to comment for the FT article. It is unclear whether the bank knew its services were being used to skirt anti-money laundering regulations, the paper reported.
Leading up to June of this year, Wirecard was a darling with investors, trading at more than 100 euros per share. Then the company admitted that more than $1 billion in assets probably didn't exist and filed for bankruptcy. The stock crashed to around 2 euros per share.
On June 18, Founder Markus Braun resigned. A week later, Braun was arrested in Germany and released on €5 million bail. He is charged with fraudulently inflating earnings.
According to the Financial Times, the ’Ndrangheta group, from Southern Italy, engages in murder, extortion, money laundering and large-scale drug smuggling, and has collaborated in its work with Central American drug cartels. The European police network Europol says 'Ndrangheta is also involved in trafficking illegal firearms.
'Ndrangheta operates from the Calabria region in Southern Italy. Calabria, only a few miles by water from Sicily, is poorer than much of Italy, and occupies what would be the toe if Italy were a boot.