Marsaxlokk parish priest Luke Seguna was remanded in custody after being charged with misappropriation and money laundering on Friday.

The 39-year-old priest is alleged to have misappropriated €500,000 given to him by 150 parishioners over a 10-year span. The money was intended for the Church, prosecutors said.

He was also charged with fraud, falsifying a public deed and using a falsified document.

He denies all claims and is pleading not guilty. His lawyers argue that the contested money stems from donations given to Seguna personally for the celebration of weddings and other events.

Seguna, a Tarxien resident who was appointed Marsaxlokk parish priest in 2016, previously served parishes in Żabbar, Żejtun and Rabat.

He appeared in court on Friday wearing his cassock, having spent two days under questioning by police investigators.

As the case got under way, Seguna complained of chest pain and a dry mouth and magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech allowed him to remain seated as he confirmed his age, identity and address.

[attach id=1219571 type="video"]Paramedics wheel Seguna out and into an ambulance. Video: Chris Sant Fournier[/attach]

Defence lawyers argued that in “four box files of evidence, they did not come across one police report [about the priest].”

However, the magistrate pointed out that the alleged offences could be prosecuted ex officio, namely by the police without a complaint by the alleged victim.

Prosecutors asked the court to order a freeze of Seguna’s assets – a request that the court upheld, save for a statutory annual allowance of just over €13,000.

Paramedics wheel Seguna out and into an ambulance. Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Seguna’s lawyers requested bail for their client, telling the court that his relatives owned property and were willing to step in as third-party guarantors for him.

“It’s his birthday tomorrow and he’s a cancer patient,” defence lawyers told the court. “He cooperated fully with the police and provided three statements. His greatest regret is that today his photos are splashed all over Malta,” the defence said.

Prosecutors objected to the bail request, saying a number of parishioners who had given Seguna money had yet to testify.

Magistrate Frendo Dimech said she would deliver a bail decree in chambers. She later decreed that Seguna should not be granted bail at this stage. 

As the case drew to a close, Seguna suddenly leaned sideways in his seat.

“Call an ambulance immediately,” the magistrate ordered. "Human compassion remains until the end," she added as she saw the prosecution seemingly taking the priest's complaints lightly.  

Paramedics wheeled a stretcher into the courtroom and ushered him out into an ambulance waiting outside, telling him not to worry and to remain calm.

Seguna was represented by lawyers Matthew Xuereb and Jose Herrera.

Inspectors Leanne Bonello and Christopher Ellul led the prosecution, assisted by attorney general lawyers Andrea Zammit and Ramon Bonett Sladden.

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