Malta At The Crossroads: Can Charles Mizzi Crack Corruption in The Capital of World iGaming

Amid the concerted bid to clean-up this Mediterranean island nation’s fractured image for corruption and money laundering, the appointment of Charles Mizzi as the new head of the Malta Gaming Authority could, possibly, have not come at a more urgent, or apposite, time.

While Mizzi settles into the regulatory hotseat, formally taking office as the CEO of the MGA this Friday, a new book, A Death in Malta, keeps the spotlight on the notorious car bombing assassination of campaigning Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on October 16, 2017.

The murder of Galizia brought the boom down Malta, the capital of world iGaming; home to around 300 international firms and operators, which employs some 10,000 people on the archipelago of Malta, Gozo and Comino islands, population 400,000.

Malta–of legendary Knights of Malta fame, brave ‘George Cross Island’ of World War Two, awarded for defying all that Nazi Germany could throw at it, happy home of a young princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, before she became Queen of England–became in the immediate aftermath of that deadly explosion an international pariah; a financial outlaw banished beyond respectability for murder, corruption and money laundering.

“With the first explosion [my mother] became a ball of fire,” Paul Caruana Galizia, the youngest of Daphne’s three sons and author of ‘A Death in Malta’ writes in his book. “The second sent the car flying 50 metres into a field. [They] had to stop oncoming traffic from running over her remains.”

At the time of her death Daphne Caruana Galizia had 48 libel suits against her, triggered by her indefatigable journalistic investigations.

“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” she wrote shortly before her assassination.

Most of the corrupt politicians and hitmen directly implicated in Daphne’s murder have either been jailed or are awaiting trial.

And the country, fully aware of its economic dependence on the gambling industry, has made big efforts–some would say valiant efforts–to clean-up, both in image and financial management.

In June 2022 Malta was removed from the so-called ‘Grey List’ of the Paris-based international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors money laundering, terrorist financial and financial skullduggery around the world, after “making significant progress in enhancing its AML controls”.

Corruption Index

Nevertheless, according to Transparency International, the island nation still ranks with Rwanda and Saudi Arabia on the ‘Corruption Perceptions Index’.

One of Mizzi’s (pictured right) biggest challenges will be fighting Malta’s corner in the ongoing battle over his country’s contentious Bill 55, which asserts the MGA’s full and overriding sovereignty over the all-important gambling industry.

The EU, led by leviathan Germany, contends that Brussels should have the last word over Compliance, licensing and financial sanctions as gambling operations in Malta are international, Europe-wide, and not just local in nature.

Crucially, the bill seeks to protect Malta-licensed operators from EU legal liability regarding their gambling activity.


Few can argue with this assertion of regulatory and financial independence.

And Malta has underlined its hard line by ramping-up oversight of its iGaming industry, which represents some 12 percent of the economy, contributing an estimated €1.6 billion to national coffers last year alone (£1.36bn).

In recent months three major iGaming players, the Kindred Group, Rush Gaming, Betago and the effectively dormant Genesis Global, have run afoul of the MGA and Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU).

Rush Gaming and Betago had their licence pulled because of non-compliance with national gaming laws; Kindred’s Trannel International subsidiary was fined €222,736 (£190,579) because of the operator’s “ineffective and inadequate” Customer Risk Assessment protocols.

In all, during H1 of 2023, the MGA conducted 14 Compliance Audits and 85 Desktop Reviews, imposing nine administrative penalties, totalling €124,400 (£106,440).

The MGA also carried out 11 Compliance Examinations on behalf of the FIAU during the same period, levying total fines of €599,420 for gaming violations (£512,882).


“I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead the Authority,” Charles Mizzi, who replaces his namesake Charles Brincat, told iGamingFuture.

“I am keen to build on past successes and, together with the team under the guidance of the minister responsible and the board of governors, to strategically steer the Authority forward so that Malta’s already robust position in the field may be further strengthened, while delivering value to all stakeholders.”

Malta’s Finance Minister Silvio Schembri also welcomed the appointment of Mizzi, formerly CEO of the Residency Malta Agency and a one-time top banking executive.

“With his vast experience in managing the operations of a number of entities and his contributions towards major projects, Charles is undoubtedly the right candidate to continue building on what the MGA has achieved so far,” said Schembri.

Kind words indeed.

But words in Malta, and elsewhere, as the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia testify, can also blow up in your face.

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