An auction firm owner and a financial service practitioner with whom he runs a separate business were on Wednesday granted bail against a €100,000 bail bond each after pleading not guilty to money laundering charges.
Pierre Grech Cumbo Pillow, 44, from Ta’ Xbiex and Jason Vella Tabone, 37, from Qormi, appeared before Magistrate Nadine Lia charged with laundering “millions of euro” over a period of time.
Charges were also brought against PGP Trading Limited, a company in which Vella is a director and Grech Cumbo Pillow as a shareholder. The company appears to have been set up in 2016 and is in the process of being dissolved.
The court heard how a magisterial inquiry into their alleged crimes was opened in September 2019 and is still pending.
They were charged with engaging in crime by transferring property which they knew or could have reasonably suspected to have been derived from criminal activities and with covering up for this illicit activity.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them.
In submissions for bail, lawyers Giannella de Marco and John Refalo for Grech Cumbo Pillow and lawyers Michael Sciriha, Albert Zerafa and Matthew Xuereb insisted that their clients had been on police bail for a number of months and that there was nothing precluding the court from refusing the request.
The two had been arrested in September last year and had their police bail renewed four of five times since then. De Marco said the magisterial inquiry was still pending and there had been no conclusion which called upon the police to arrest and charge the two in court. They two were asked to go the police depot to release a statement and were arrested upon their arrival and taken to court under arrest.
Cinzia Azzopardi Alamango, from the Attorney General’s office, said the prosecution was insisting on its opposition to bail due to the gravity of the case as well as a fear of absconding because the two had ties in other countries.
When pressed by the court, she could not amplify on these fears or the business ties she was alluding to. She only said the acts of money laundering allegedly involved foreigners and that the accused were receiving instructions from abroad.
But this was not a good enough reason for the court, with Magistrate Lia upholding the request for bail. She ordered them to sign the bail book daily, to be home at 9pm every evening and to deposit the sum of €50,000 each. She also imposed another €50,000 personal guarantee.
Upon the request of the prosecution, the court also issued a freezing order on all their assets which had already been the subject of an attachment order while investigations were still under way.