EXCLUSIVE: Developer questioned over links to ex-police superintendent Raymond Aquilina

Raymond Aquilina was arrested last week, suspected of leaking information on police investigations into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. But the police are also looking into his possible involvement in financial crimes.

 

Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli was held for questioning by the police for several hours last week over alleged connections to former police superintendent Raymond Aquilina, The Shift can reveal.

Police sources told The Shift that Portelli, currently also the president of Malta’s football league winners Hamrun Spartans, was interrogated under caution by the financial crimes department over his possible connections with Aquilina, who for many years was the key police officer responsible for money laundering investigations at the Economic Crimes Unit.

Though details of the ongoing investigation are still unclear, The Shift understands that the police are looking into property deals involving both Portelli and Aquilina.

The deals under scrutiny involve the transfer of property to Aquilina’s relatives that later ended up in the hands of the former police superintendent.  The Shift understands the police are basing their investigation on documentary evidence.

Reports that Aquilina was arrested appeared last week, with speculation that the former police officer is suspected of leaking information on police investigations into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Yet The Shift is informed that while Aquilina is also a person of interest in the assassinated journalist’s probe, the police are also looking into his possible involvement in financial crimes including money laundering and fraud.

The sources said the possible links to Joseph Portelli might be separate to any other links to the Caruana Galizia case.

Who is the Raymond Aquilina?

Described as a very reserved person with very few close friends, Aquilina joined the police force in 2004 and always worked as an inspector in the Fraud and Economic Crimes Department, mostly under the guidance of Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla.

Abdilla is still in the force despite several reports of his close links with the former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and his failure to investigate money laundering crimes.

Aquilina was responsible for money laundering investigations and intelligence on people, mostly businessmen and professionals, suspected of being involved in money laundering activities.

It is not yet known whether the police have acquired evidence that Aquilina was also passing on information to Portelli, among others.

Ex-police superintendent Raymond Aquilina.

Following the change in government in 2013, Aquilina was promoted to the rank of superintendent but remained responsible for money laundering.

He retired from the police force shortly after the arraignment of businessman Yorgen Fenech, accused of commissioning the assassination of Caruana Galizia.

Soon after his retirement, qualifying him for a police pension, Aquilina was recruited by State entity Enemalta to look after its fraud section. He did not last long on the job as he left as soon as his name started doing the rounds during the ongoing compilation of evidence against Fenech.

During several court hearings, Aquilina’s name came up during conversations secretly recorded by State witness Melvin Theuma.

Aquilina and former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta were the police officials most frequently mentioned in alleged leaks to those suspected of being involved in the crime.

The rapid rise of Joseph Portelli’s empire

Born in Canada, Portelli, from Nadur, got involved in the property market as soon as he arrived in Malta, making connections with big businessmen and politicians from both sides of the political divide.

His rapid rise to controlling a multi-million euro real estate business, through his company J Portelli Projects, occurred in the past decade with projects all over the islands, mostly demolishing old structures and turning them into large blocks of apartments.

His flagship project, Mercury Towers in St Julian’s, is currently under construction and will include the tallest building ever to be built in Malta.

His name is associated with controversy, particularly due to various ‘dubious’ development permits issued by the Planning Authority in the past years, particularly in Gozo.

Portelli is also one of the owners of an illegal concrete batching plant in Gozo, which is supplying concrete to various ongoing government projects including a new public sports centre and various road works, a number of which were given through direct orders.

                           
                               
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Joe Camilleri
5 months ago

Kif dejjem jissemma’ Joseph Portelli f’kontroversja wara ohra u nieqfu hawn? Tahsbu vera li l-problema hu Joseph jew jista’ ikun li s-shareholders (diretti jew indiretti) li jista’ ghandu fil-Parlament (miz-zewg nahat) jaqblilhom li tieqaf sa ismu? Kumbinazzjoni l-PA kull darba taghma u HADD ma jintervjeni meta jkun hemm applikazzjoni ta’ Joseph jew dawk maghrufin partners tieghu? Jew jista’ jkun li hemm interess mhux biss minn min hu vizibilment relatat ma’ Joseph u hadd ma jaqbillu jintervjeni?

Xi kultant nghidu n-nies m’ghadhomx ta’ subghajhom f’halqhom… wiehed ghad irid japprova din l-ipotesi…nahseb.

Martin S
Martin S
5 months ago

Please, do our intelligence and dignity a favour: stop calling these destroyers of this island ‘developers’. The only thing they’re interested to develop is their pocket and their ego. I would call them ‘DEVILELOPERS’ for they have eloped with the Beast in biblical proportions.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
5 months ago

Our government cringes at citizens protesting and using the term Mafia state, however we are the definition. Portelli who I believe represents more than his own personal interests has repeatedly made a mockery of the law and yet he has been an untouchable Teflon don.

John Rodger
5 months ago
Reply to  Winston Smith

Maybe & probably they are also involved ?. Who knows ??

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  John Rodger

I am not a betting person but I would wager that most of Malta’s major construction is fueled by laundered money. This is an assumption but someone like Portelli has the means, method and motive to wash laundered cash. From greasing the wheel to get his permits, to falsely declaring construction costs (these supremos literally own the means of production, no one is counting how many cement trucks go out of his plant) to paying part of his workers wages in cash. In Italy and the US it wasn’t by chance that the Mafia are in construction. Eventually, the whole construction scam will blow up.

carlo
carlo
5 months ago

South America type of corrupt police. Corruption 360 degrees. With all this corruption discovered and still they own empires. In other democratic countries all assets are frozen, but, here in Malta we let the crooks dispose, transfer or sell their assets coming from illicit and dirty money and then action is taken when it’s too late. I never had confidence in the police force, the law courts or in the labour party (tal-isem) and such episodes make me more determined not to trust them.

viv
viv
5 months ago
Reply to  carlo

As Daphne correctly observed, anything beyond the Maltese citizen’s front door is of no concern. Corruption can do nothing but thrive in such conditions.

Nick A
5 months ago
Reply to  carlo

The minute we attribute attrocities to one party over the other is the minute we lose the fight against corruption and such irregularities. Unfortunately these were, are and will exist especially with the backing we people blindly give to partisian voting. BUT we need to keep voicing and questioning such matters ALWAYS, irrelevant of who is in power, and DEMAND actions! Actions not for partisian benefit, but for Malta’s benefit! Let’s not remain being fooled by the party system that has kept Malta 30 years behind in mentality, culture, progress and sustainable development – just benefiting ONLY the politicians!

carlo
carlo
5 months ago
Reply to  Nick A

agree with you but these things are happening now from a party which had promised transparency, honesty and meritocracy – and cheated us all. I don’t care who’s running this mafia rock and we the people have to stop being robbed by these low lives, but unfortunately people only look what they can get for free and are ready to sell their souls and to hell with the good for the country.

gadflyg
gadflyg
5 months ago

Malta is a mafia state where politicians serve the interests of their bosses (unless they and their minions are bosses themselves). The corrupt state is propped by institutions such as the police and the Planning Authority. The latter fully deserves its title because it has been planning the total destruction of the two islands over the last 6 years or more. The authority has always been a doubtful institution, now it deserves to be qualified as the institution which has done most damage to the physical environment. Of course, the real damage, the damage to the fabric of the state has been and is being done by politicians who do not care one iota about morality, about principles, about anything other than money. The PM is but an instrument in the hands of the really powerful gang: the property speculators, the ‘big’ businessmen, and others who take care to remain well hidden from public view. The PM has no courage – and probably no power – to make an effective change. Until ALL the old guard is in prison (for long) Malta cannot and will not recover.

carlo
carlo
5 months ago
Reply to  gadflyg

maybe he’s also in the loop.

Pablo
Pablo
5 months ago

The noose is tightening. It is evidently clear that there are links between corrupt politicians, disgraced public officers at MEPA, Police headquarters…and business magnates.

Somebody like Portelli grew his business TOO quickly. He’s either a business genuis of the likes we’ve never seen before or else he had political help every step of the way.

The Shift should keep an eye more on people like Portelli. It will eventually lead to something….or someone.

carlo
carlo
5 months ago
Reply to  Pablo

the mafia invests in third parties and 17 black comes to mind.

mick
mick
5 months ago

Close down the batching plants and see who screams or takes legal action, that will give you a good idea of “other interested parties”

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