Belgian Gaming Commission Investigates Betway over €28m Investment

View of Valletta, Malta's capital city

30-second summary

  • Betway is registered in Malta and operates from offices in Gżira
  • Sanction procedure started against Betway
  • Claims of “transparent ownership” questioned
  • Special Tax Inspectorate involved
  • Betway mentioned in the famous tax avoidance scheme, Panama Papers

Maltese firm Betway is currently under scrutiny over allegations stemming from the Panama Papers. It involves almost $30m of which the Belgium gambling regulator cannot find any record of.

How it started

In the Panama Papers, an investigative journalism experiment that spanned multiple countries, the fully-accessible documents (available online) show a reference to Betway receiving an investment of €28m (£24.3m; $32.0m) in December 2014. The Belgian gambling regulator attempted to identify the source of these payments but was unable to do so because of the company’s opaque corporate structure.

The funds appear to have come from unknown shareholders in the British Virgin Islands. It was immediately picked up by the Belgian press because Betway sponsors the country’s best-known football club, RSC Anderlecht.

The investigation

Just a few days ago, the Belgian Gaming Commission announced sanction proceeding against Betway for “cumulative license and the lack of transparency of its ownership.” This came about after investigations into the Panama Papers were concluded in 2017.

Marjolein De Pape, a spokesperson for the Belgian regulator, said that the Commission’s findings were now in the hands of the Public Prosecutor, the Special Tax Inspectorate and the Anti-money Laundering Unit for further investigation. It is possible that action may be taken against the company.

According to an unnamed spokesperson, no sanctions have yet been carried out, and the findings are simply a “review.” The spokesperson continued: “All information requested by the Gaming Commission in Belgium has been provided to them, and they have informed us that a review of that information is now underway by the board. At this stage, no sanction has been decided on.”

The spokesperson has not commented on who the real owners of Betway are.

Betway – the company

Registered in Malta and operating from offices in Gżira, Betway is owned by Betway Group Ltd and licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority. The Betway Group Ltd company is registered in the British Virgin Islands.

A nominal share is held by Cybergaming Consultants, a Ta’ Xbiex company. However, the real shareholders of the company are not known because it is registered in the British Virgin Islands, well known as a tax haven and the focus of many tax-avoidance scandals.

A spokesperson for Betway told the Times of Malta: “Betway is owned and funded by a group of private shareholders who have been highly successful in both the gaming and technology sectors. As with any private company, the shareholders very reasonably choose not to publicize their investment in Betway or other companies, but provide all the information necessary to the relevant official bodies as required.”

The company employs more than 80 people in Malta.