The collapsed crypto exchange giant FTX, which has filed for bankruptcy in the US, opened two companies in Malta last April in an apparent bid to expand into gaming. According to information in the Malta Business Registry, FTX Malta Holdings Limited and FTX Malta Gaming Services Limited were opened in Malta in April. Both companies have Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto exchange’s former boss, written down as appointed director. These entities are not part of the U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
The only documents available on the registry are the Articles of Association and directors’ declarations. The reports suggest that these companies were set up to expand into the gaming sector. Indeed, cryptocurrencies have become a vital payment option in the gaming industry over the last couple of years.
Neither of those two firms was licensed to carry out any activities related to virtual financial assets or cryptocurrencies in or from Malta, a spokesperson for the MFSA said.
Malta bet significantly on the crypto sector in 2017 when then disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he wanted the island to be at the forefront of blockchain and crypto technology.
In 2018, at the height of the so-called ‘blockchain island’ hype, several big names in the cryptocurrency exchange world announced they would establish outlets in Malta. That never materialized. Christopher P. Buttigieg, who sits on the executive committee of MFSA, pushed for Malta to be turned into “blockchain island.” This project resulted in a complete failure. Christopher P. Buttigieg was the right-hand man of Joseph Cuschieri, who resigned in disgrace from MFSA’s CEO. Together with Edwina Licari and Michelle Mizzi Buontempo, he gets to decide who is awarded licenses or not. These officials do not declare their conflicts of interest.
The two Maltese companies of FTX were registered by GVZH Advocates and 52 Saint Cristopher Street, Valletta, as the registered office address. GVZH Advocates are headed by Andrew J. Zammit. The MFSA and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) engaged GVZH Advocates via a direct order as their legal advisors. FTX, the MFSA, and the MGA engage the same lawyers. Indeed, an apparent conflict of interest under the scorching Maltese sun.