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Casino operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment (MRE) doesn’t agree with a European regulator’s warning that the company’s Cyprus casinos could become a money laundering center.

The Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL anti-money laundering body issued a report earlier this week, that included a warning concerning the rising casino business on Cyprus, which is operated by Cyprus Casinos (C2), a branch of the Hong Kong-listed Melco.

In June 2018, C2 launched its first casino in Limassol, a ‘temporary’ facility which has been joined by several smaller satellite casinos since then while C2 completes building of its City of Dreams Mediterranean integrated resort, which is set to open in late-2021.

Moneyval’s report says that in May 2019, an on-site visit to the Limassol casino indicated that its anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) systems “had weaknesses.” Moneyval’s assessment team informed the casinos was “currently operating at or beyond the limits of its AML/CTF compliance and risk management system.”

Although Moneyval said the Limassol staff “appear to understand” the risks related with casino services, they “appear to not fully appreciate the quantitative magnitude of those risks when attached to operations of the casino’s current size – much less its anticipated future size.”

As reported by calvinayre.com, Moneyval observed that C2 was “planning aggressive expansion,” including “attracting foreign junket operators and enticing foreign VIP customers.” Moneyval recommended that until C2 can “demonstrate an effective AML/CTF program at its current level of activity,” the Cyprus Gaming Commission “should consider not permitting it to expand that activity.”

C2 issued a statement a day later, saying it welcomed “a strong and compliant regulatory framework.” C2 said it was “working closely” with Cyprus regulators “to implement all AML regulations” and the company was “dedicated to industry-leading and best practice AML/CTF procedures in all our operations.”

Recently gambling regulators in Malta imposed a €2.34m fine on Blackrock Media Ltd for “operating a gaming service through a Maltese legal entity without being in possession of the necessary authorization.” Maltese officials said that the fine was evidence that it was dedicated to implementing the suggestions in a 2019 Moneyval report on Malta’s AML/CTF risks.

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