A man was charged on Monday with swindling a charitable organization - Fondazzjoni Wens - out of some €111,000 and laundering the funds.

Anthony Grech, 49, pleaded not guilty to misappropriation, fraud and money laundering. He also denied stealing a jigger, issuing false invoices or accounting records as well as recidivism.

Grech, who served time in a Vienna jail, was arrested upon his return to Malta.

The court was told that he now works with a Russian investment company which also employs his wife, and the couple have taken a long let on a Madliena villa that is to be their home.

The money laundering allegations cover the period between March and November 2018. No details of the case were given in court. 

Defence lawyer Martin Fenech requested bail, pointing out that the accused lived in Malta, had family ties on the island and also operated his business here.

Although prosecutors did not object to bail, they stressed the need for stringent conditions since the accused can potentially abscond.

Magistrate Leonard Caruana, upheld thebail  request, ordering the accused not to approach prosecution witnesses, to sign the bail book three times weekly and to observe a curfew between 10pm and 6am.

The accused has to pay a €8,000 deposit and bind himself under a €30,000 personal guarantee.

In light of the blanket freezing order sought by the prosecution, the defence lawyer requested that the accused be authorised to withdraw  €8,000 to secure his release from arrest.

However, AG lawyers Marthese Ellul Grech and Ramon Bonett Sladden objected to any suc exception, arguing that at such an early stage of the proceedings, they did not have enough information about the source of those funds. The prosecution would need to vet where those €8,000 were coming from, given that the accused had foreign accounts.

“Can I be granted bail without a deposit? Or at least be granted the faculty of paying that amount by instalments?”quipped the accused.

But both his lawyer and the prosecutor explained that such an option was not possible.

“And if I have no means of getting the money? What then?” asked the man, over and over.

He sounded perplexed when he was told that he would have to go to prison until he could pay the deposit that was to secure his bail.

The lawyers from the AG Office pointed out that there were “other means” of paying the bail deposit once the freezing order was issued, further pointing out that the accused was allowed an annual statutory allowance of €13,976.24.

Magistrate Caruana upheld the request for the freezing order, observing that this court or any other court that was assigned the case, could decree on the defence’s request at a later stage.

Meanwhile until he could obtain the necessary deposit, the accused would remain in jail.  

Senior Inspector Hubert Cini also prosecuted.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us