MALTA: NO LOCAL BANK IS WILLING TO ALLOW ACCUSED MONEY LAUNDERERS Albert Buttigieg + Florinda Sultana to have a bank account
LEFT TO RIGHT – Albert Buttigieg + Florinda Sultana
The magistrate presiding over the money laundering case against restauranteurs Florinda Sultana and Albert Buttigieg, of Capo Mulini, has heard a court-appointed administrator explain that no local bank had been willing to allow Sultana to operate an account.
Sultana and Buttigieg are the subjects of criminal proceedings filed over their involvement in a number of companies operating the Porticello – formerly Scoglitti, a restaurant in Valletta – and Capo Mulini at Marsaxlokk. Both restaurants are alleged to be linked to the laundering of money from oil smuggling.
The pair had been the subjects of search warrants and were arrested last year during a large-scale police anti-smuggling operation which led to the arraignments of ex-footballers Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti, together with auditor Chris Baldacchino and fuel trader Gordon Debono.
All accused are denying the charges.
The administrator was appointed to take stock of MS1 Catering, a holding company for Sultana’s restaurant, Porticello. The restaurant was operating on a cash-only basis, as no local bank would open an account for the company.
“There is no bank account for the company in Malta… None of the banks want to allow them to have an account with them as they are subject to FIAU investigations and [the banks] don’t want problems,” the administrator said, asking the court for guidance on how to handle the situation.
Lawyer Stefano Filletti, appearing for the accused, said the situation was partially the fault of the State, for “putting people’s backs to the wall”.
“Now that it did all that it could to stop the restaurants’ operations, it was creating obstacles for them to be administered,” he said.
The court, however, also observed that the administrator had not stuck to his remit and had engaged staff to assist him. This was not allowed as it simply increased costs.
Also testifying today were eight restaurant staff members, who recognised Buttigieg as the boss, although they didn’t know who the restaurant belonged to. The staff members would be paid by bank transfer from Buttigieg’s company Luzzu Catering or sometimes, in cash, they said.
In a previous sitting, another court-appointed expert had reported finding around 14,000 photos from a camera hidden in a women’s bathroom on Buttigieg’s electronic devices. This morning, the Court pointed out that it had never said they were taken at the restaurant, or that they were taken by Buttigieg. The photos were of people in a toilet, it said, but no evidence had been brought to show which toilet they were taken from.
The case continues on July 19.
Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Martina Cuschieri appeared for the accused. The prosecution is being led by Inspector Joseph Xerri, James Turner and Omar Caruana. They were assisted by lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Cinzia Azzopardi Alamango from the Office of the Attorney General.
BACKGROUND: MALTA – ALREADY CHARGED WITH MONEY LAUNDERING, INVESTIGATOR TELLS COURT ALBERT BUTTIGIEG SPIED on women with secret toilet cameras
Thousands of photos of women taken by secret cameras placed in a female toilet were found on the electronic devices of Albert Buttigieg, who is charged with money laundering.
The shocking testimony was given in court on Monday as the case against Buttigieg and Florinda Sultana continued. Both are charged with laundering illicit funds through two restaurants they ran in Valletta and Marsaxlokk.
Sultana is the step-daughter of ex-footballer Darren Debono, who is facing separate proceedings for money laundering and fuel smuggling.
Testifying on Monday, court expert Martin Bajada, tasked to analyse the electronic devices seized by the police from the accused, said that he found some 14,000 photos that appeared to come from hidden cameras in female toilets. The expert did not specify whether the spy cameras were placed in the restaurant toilets.
Bajada testified that 32 devices included 28 USB devices, micro SD cards, mobile phones and laptops were analysed.
He said that during the investigation, around 14,000 photos from a camera hidden in a women’s bathroom were found.
The testimony left Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech visibly shocked, ordering the Police Commissioner to investigate the data.
Florinda (Floren Sultana), 29, and Butigieg, a former high-ranking BNF Bank official are accused of fronting companies that managed the two seafood restaurants Porticello – former Scoglitti- restaurant at Valletta and Capo Mulini at Marsaxlokk to launder money linked to oil smuggling.
Former employees who worked at both restaurants also testified in today’s sitting.
Former Chef de Partie Alessandro Dipieroi, who worked at Scoglitti before getting transferred to Porticello, said that he was paid in cheques.
He confirmed that Florinda Sultana administered the Scoglitti restaurant, and Albert Butigieg administered Capo Muglini.
Other employees, who also worked in the restaurants’ kitchens as chefs, or as waiters, testified on their management. They all confirmed that they were paid via cheques.
Architect Claude Mallia testified that he was called in by Darren Debono and Daimer Goodlip for internal modifications at the Capo Mulini restaurant.
He said that the application was submitted on September 2017.
Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Martina Cuschieri appeared for the accused.
Prosecution is being led by Joseph Xerri, James Turner and Omar Caruana. They were assisted by lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Cinzia Azzopardi Alamango from the Office of the Attorney General.
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