A former high-ranking official at a key casino industry regulator has been charged with a strong of alleged offences, including money laundering and accepting bribes.
Jason Farrugia, the former chief technology officer at the Malta Gaming Authority, has appeared in court to plead not guilty to a raft of charges that also include extortion, fraud and ‘trading in influence’.
His wife Christine has also been indicted on a charge of money laundering.
Farrugia was initially suspended by the MGA in December 2021 after he was suspected of leaking sensitive information relating to the regulator, who would later decide that the matter should be passed on to the police.
He was an employee of the MGA for more than a decade, holding a number of technical and systems-related posts. Farrugia is also a former Head of ICT and Records at the organisation, and it is believed that some of his charges are related to allegedly accessing confidential information.
The regulator, which oversees land-based and online casino gaming across Europe and hands out licences to operators that meet its requirements, has chosen to keep schtum throughout the process, which has taken almost six months to see the light of day at court.
However, a spokesperson for the Authority has said:
“The MGA would like to clarify that the employment relationship with Mr Farrugia was terminated in December 2021, following an internal investigation initiated by the MGA into alleged wrongdoings by the same individual.
“The results of these investigations were passed on to the relevant authorities and the MGA has been, and remains, at their disposal and providing all required assistance. In the meantime, the MGA continues to take all the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of its data.”
At the preliminary hearing, magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace refused the couple’s requests for bail, and upheld a request from the prosecution that their assets would be frozen for the foreseeable future.
Most troublingly for a regulator for whom integrity and trust are key, Farrugia is not the first high-ranking official at the MGA to have to answer to criminal charges. His namesake of no relation, Heathcliff Farrugia, who was once the CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority, became embroiled in a trading in influence investigation of his own back in 2021.
He was an associate of Yorgen Fenech, a casino owner and entrepreneur who was suspected of being involved in the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese anti-corruption journalist. Fenech was charged with complicity in the murder, which would go on to make international news.
The Times of Malta has reported that Heathcliff Farrugia had spoken ‘at some length’ to Fenech, with the conversation – according to police sources – centered around an anti-money laundering investigation to be carried out at Fenech’s Portomaso Casino property, as well as the divulgence of commercially-sensitive information about rival casinos.
As if the Farrugias’ alleged criminality wasn’t enough, another former MGA employee – Iosif Galea – was fined more than €50,000 for his part in the bribery case involving former European Commissioner John Dalli.