‘Money laundering trials set up to fail’

As questions continue to be raised about the millions in assets frozen for those accused of money laundering in the wake of the hospitals’ inquiry, experts consulted by The Shift pointed to grave concerns on the process, with a leading academic saying “the case is set up to fail”.

Those accused last week had assets frozen to the tune of €30 million, with people wondering whether it actually meant the individuals had that amount of money in their accounts.

The simple answer is “no”, according to lawyer Edward Debono. He told The Shift that the amount was set according to the evidence of transactions the magistrate had come across.

“The magistrate must have found a lot of transfers passed to various people showing this amount of money was defrauded. It could be €30 million or possibly more,” Debono said.

“Otherwise, why would she distinguish between €1 million or €30 million or €32 million or €40 million?” he added.

Most of the accused had €30 million assets frozen, with some less and some more. David Meli, for example, had €32 million of assets frozen while lawyer Deborah Anne Chappell had one of the highest amounts – €40 million.

Debono pointed out that the evidence had not yet been extrapolated from the 78 boxes in court. “We do not yet know the evidence there is.”

An academic who is an expert in the field confirmed the answers lay in the boxes of evidence.

“We assume, because we have not seen the evidence yet, that the prosecution considered that the highest amount those accused took, or what they could prove, amounted to €30 million,” he said.

Of more concern, he pointed out that the trials were set up for failure.

“Money laundering is very difficult to prosecute. And we have no experience. We don’t have a single successful case of prosecuting money laundering,” he pointed out.

He said cases have been filed against individuals to impress the FATF, especially when Malta were greylisted, to give the impression the country was acting on money laundering.

“If we look at this case, we have three young prosecutors facing more than two dozen devilish criminal lawyers who will eat them alive. The prosecutors are just lambs for the slaughter,” he added, saying he was convinced no convictions would result from this process.

Questions are being asked about the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner. Although the Attorney General would usually lead the prosecution, Victoria Buttigieg was nowhere to be seen during the arraignments last week.

“Where is the Attorney General? True, she’s not competent to handle such a case, and that is how the government protects the criminals. But the AG should be in court, at the very least representing the office. She’s supposed to be the leading expert,” the professor said.

“In a nutshell, all this is set up to fail.”

On Tuesday, Franco Debono, who was defending DF Advocates and their owners in the case, stalled proceedings for six hours on a frivolous claim.

“There will be more of these claims as we go along. Remember Brian Tonna and the ‘loan’ from Keith Schembri (in another money laundering case related to the Panama Papers)? As if Tonna needed Schembri’s loan. But these are the kind of arguments you usually see,” he added.

And with those leading the prosecution being inexperienced, and with a track record of botching cases, the road ahead is challenging at the very least.

“We have already started to see mistakes by the prosecution, like charging one company instead of another. This is not about experimenting, about gaining experience in prosecuting money laundering crimes. If you’re not sure, you don’t go ahead,” he said.

The professor pointed out that if the prosecution loses, the individuals cannot be sued again. “Instead they get a certificate of innocence because of our incompetence and they get to enjoy the proceeds of their crime.”

He points to the Muscats, travelling on diplomatic passports while their assets are frozen. “How can they be allowed to travel, let alone on diplomatic passports? This is where you see it’s wrong – they are still being protected by the State when the State is supposed to be holding them accountable.”

                           

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Jay Ho
Jay Ho
20 days ago

The professor pointed out that if the prosecution loses, the individuals cannot be sued again. “Instead they get a certificate of innocence because of our our incompetence and they get to enjoy the proceeds of their crime.”

This is the real reason we need to allow a proper authority, an experienced justice system to step in to secure a real verdict – we are all aware that this sham will after many years result in a mistrial, and the guilty will carry on yachting.

Nigel Baker
Nigel Baker
20 days ago

Has Mickey Mouse got a middle name? If not, I suggest ‘Malta’.

Amadeo Mifsud
Amadeo Mifsud
19 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Baker

I suggest ‘Malta’ should be the middle name of Cosa Nostra instead.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
20 days ago

Lawyers make their money by defending criminals and not by prosecuting.

Mick
Mick
20 days ago

This whole charade is a crock of shit to appease the critics of ABELA, Muscat et al. Designed by Mile End, Abela, the AG and the CoP, it is just a placebo to show that the “system” works. None of these criminals will ever see the inside of a cell and likely will be remunerated by the AG for the inconveniences they have sustained whilst their ill gotten gains were frozen.
This country is and will remain a Mafia controlled “state” for at least the next generation as there is no one with balls willing to confront the Head On

Tony
Tony
19 days ago
Reply to  Mick

Repubblika have shown they have the “balls” to do what it takes. What more can they do than they are doing? They even attempted to join the case parte civile. Maybe they can appeal this ruling? Someone needs to defend the citizens of this country because clearly the AG has no intention of doing so. refuted.

Last edited 19 days ago by Tony
Out of Curiosity
Out of Curiosity
20 days ago

Whenever the prosecution loses the cases in court to the embarassment of many, the possibility for Malta to become a one party state would be almost inevitable. Moreover, the courts will lose credibility fast and our democracy will gradually fall apart to the benefit of more criminals. In laymen terms, this is the seriousness of the situation in Malta right now.

Last edited 20 days ago by Out of Curiosity
Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
19 days ago

Lost Prosecution cases are not indicative of the Maltese Courts’ credibility – but, as in many recent ones, of that of the Prosecutors themselves, either through their ill-preparing their case or through inexperience when faced with legal giants defending the alleged criminals.

Neither of these causes can be ruled out in the present mammoth proceedings regarding the Vitals/Steward Case.

I did not mention intended failures – just to give the A.G. and the C.of P. a fair chance!

Mark
Mark
19 days ago

some of these politicians have been convicted in other states, but here they will be found innocent, with all the corrupt people they will surely blow all the charges, but the mystery of how they made all this money remains…

S. Camilleri
S. Camilleri
13 days ago

The entire case was deliberately skewed from the word go. No investigations. Accommodating, timorous, AGs. Passive complicit Commissioners of Police. Relevant institutions captured by Government, obstruction of justice. Suspects, and then charged, left free to travel the world to destroy evidence, move their assets around, suborn witnesses. An assault on anyone trying to do his job, and in particular on the judiciary, to undermine their credibility, while all the time adulating the suspects and persons charged. In other words, a wholesale dismantling of the investigative apparatus and of the law enforcement process undermining the integrity of any eventual judicial proceedings. And to add insult to injury we have to put up with exuberant lip on the part of emboldened suspects cynically grinning and flouting their impunity in our faces.

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