Darren Debono was sentenced to a six-month jail term and fined €4,600 after being charged with failing to cooperate when called to testify against Vince Muscat, his alleged former accomplice in the 2010 HSBC failed heist. 

His lawyer gave notice of appeal.

Judgment was delivered early on Monday following Debono’s arraignment on Friday within 24 hours of the order issued by Magistrate Monica Vella who had ordered his immediate arrest and investigation when he refused to name accomplices in the botched hold up

Debono was granted a plea bargain at the eleventh hour before he was due to face trial alongside Muscat, with prosecutors dropping the attempted homicide charge in exchange for his evidence.

The former co-accused turned star prosecution witness was sentenced to a 10 and-a-half year jail term. 

When taking the oath on Thursday, Debono had started off with an unexpected declaration. 

He told the court that he would only testify about his former co-accused, present in the courtroom, but not about any third parties, insisting, “I don’t want to put my son’s life in danger.” 

His account of the violent hold-up at the HSBC Qormi headquarters that day, which ended in a shootout with police before the robbers got away empty-handed, was short-lived. 

He refused to divulge the names of two accomplices, triggering the Magistrate’s order for immediate re-arrest and investigation. 

Upon his arraignment on Friday, his lawyer, Edward Gatt, argued that Debono had been administered the oath and had also supplied information about Muscat’s alleged involvement at the crime scene. 

“Can anyone blame him for being afraid?” argued the lawyer, when defending Debono from the charges of being an evasive witness. 

On Sunday evening Muscat’s lawyers requested the urgent opening of the court registry to file a judicial protest against the Attorney General.

They claimed that the case against their client was heading towards a “miscarriage of justice” and held the AG responsible for the breach of rights allegedly suffered by Muscat, reserving the right to further legal action.  

Debono was found guilty as charged and his punishment was increased by one degree in view of the charge of recidivism. Inspector Mario Xiberras prosecuted. Lawyer Edward Gatt was defence counsel. 

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