Darren Debono, the former international footballer, currently facing money laundering charges, among other alleged crimes, is ‘living’ with some 11 Italians, mostly Sicilians from Catania, at his residence in San Gwann, according to information publicly available in the electoral register.
Research conducted by The Shift shows that apart from Debono, his partner and two siblings, another 10 men and a woman declared Debono’s home as their registered place of permanent residence.
According to the latest electoral register, Debono’s household comprises a total of 15 occupants. These include persons with many different surnames such as Cannarella, Lonzafame, Leopori, Sciuto and Tarda.
Further research shows that like Debono, who declares his main occupation as a fisherman, almost all the other individuals ‘living’ with him are related to the maritime industry, declaring that they are either fishermen or sailors.
As doubts are raised over the veracity of the sworn declarations made by these ‘residents’ when issued with a valid identity document, government sources told The Shift that these incidents expose the lack of checks and balances made by Identity Malta.
The sources told The Shift that the Darren Debono case is not unique as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cases across the island.
“During the past years, the Maltese authorities have lowered their guard significantly and have let thousands of foreigners come to live on the island, both legally and illegally. This was unwritten government policy,” a senior official said.
“There are thousands of ‘false’ ID cards as whoever declares living in a particular address is not checked. No proof of residence is required, and anyone can invent an address. There are hundreds even registered on garages,” the official said.
Applicants for ID cards must sign a declaration that the information they give to the authorities is true. Yet this is never verified.
Malta’s ID card system is tied to the electoral register, which is used to issue voting documents during elections. Most of the foreigners issued with an ID card are not eligible to vote as they aren’t Maltese citizens.
This does not apply to those who buy a Maltese passport through the controversial cash-for-passport scheme.
Although most of the passport buyers would have never spent more than a day on the island, they are still issued with a voting document in the general elections.
Darren Debono and his stepdaughter, Floren Sultana, are being accused of a multi-million money laundering operation from proceeds related to an international racket involved in fuel smuggling.
According to the police, Debono was allegedly laundering dirty cash through various legitimate business operations, including several fish restaurants he owned.
In the past, Debono was arrested as part of international police operations and has also spent time in jail in Sicily.
The Italian authorities had accused the Maltese government of not collaborating on international probes on oil smuggling, particularly during the war in Libya. The Maltese government denies these claims.
Featured image credit: Francesco Bellina.