18 Dec 2020
Investigations into the financial dealings of a couple suspected of laundering millions of euro still has to determine the illicit source of the allegedly laundered funds.
Gordon Debono and his wife Yvette have spent the past three weeks under preventive custody after pleading not guilty upon their arraignment on November 25. They were back in court on Wednesday afternoon for the first hearing of the compilation of evidence.
Yet, following lengthy testimony by prosecuting Inspector Omar Caruana about the nature of the investigations into voluminous financial data relating to the couple’s bank accounts as well as other documents recording property transfers, no specific ‘predicate offence’ could be identified.
“It could be any offence,” the witness replied, when questioned by the woman’s defence lawyer, Joe Giglio.
Pressed further for an explanation by the court, presided by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, Caruana explained that police investigations were still ongoing and that at this stage, the prosecution could not pinpoint a specific illicit source for the allegedly laundered funds
This reply prompted the court to remark that while two persons were under arrest since November, the “predicate offence, which is vital to arraignments over these crimes,” had not yet been determined.
“A specific crime, I cannot mention at this stage,” the inspector said.
Confidential information had sparked investigations against the couple back in 2013, under a joint operation with Europol and the Italian Guardia di Finanza, named Operation Proteus.
Those investigations had revealed that Gordon Debono had a Satabank account which received some €530,000 over two years, from sources including Petroplus and Petroplus Trading Ltd, two of the 11 companies where the couple held directorship roles.
That account was closed in March 2018.
Investigations also traced numerous cheques made out to Shaun Higgins, a stevedore working for Debono, who was charged separately with money laundering.
By Edwina Brincat, Times of Malta, 16 December 2020
Read more at Times of Malta
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