A magistrate has upheld a request for an inquiry into notary Ivan Barbara and  his wife after clients were left chasing their money when he died suddenly of COVID-19.

Barbara contracted the virus in India earlier this year, while he was in the country to adopt a child. His widow, Rosanne Barbara Zarb renounced his inheritance.

The request  for an inquiry was made by Matthew Sacco, Simon Mallia and Valerie Mallia, who had handed Barbara cheques amounting to a total of €30,650 in relation to promise-of-sale agreements they had signed. 

Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo decreed on Wednesday that the clients had satisfied the requisites for the launch of an in genere inquiry. 

The clients want the magisterial inquiry to investigate whether their funds were misappropriated or fraudulently used.

In their application filed last August, three clients said they had deposited thousands of euros with notary Barbara and their money is nowhere to be seen.

Cheques cashed

Simon Mallia told the court that he entered into a promise of sale agreement with third parties to purchase property in March and had left a deposit of € 4,900 with Barbara. The amount was paid by cheque which was cashed.

Similarly, Matthew Sacco entered into a promise of sale agreement in October last year. He also paid notary Barbara €5,000 as a deposit by cheque which was also cashed.

Valerie Mallia signed a promise of sale agreement with third parties before notary Barbara, whom she handed €20,750 as a deposit. This amount was also paid by cheque which had been cashed.

Through their lawyer, David Bonello, the clients said they had a total of €30,650 deposited at notary Barbara which should have been deposited in client accounts and eventually passed on to the seller when the final contracts of sale were signed.

They said that, so as not to lose their property after Barbara’s death, they had signed new promise-of-sale agreements and contracts, and had paid the deposit for a second time.

They explained that after considerable time passed since the death of notary Barbara, they asked his office for their deposit money to be returned. 

Inheritance renounced

They were informed that Rosanne Barbara Zarb had renounced her late husband’s inheritance.

They noted that, while the government’s chief notary had been tasked with taking over the acts signed by the late notary, this would in no way help them recoup their money.

They said the fact that the wife renounced the inheritance because it appeared, there were not enough funds to reimburse the clients, indicated some form of possible misappropriation of funds and fraud. 

Barbara died in April, after contracting COVID-19 in India, where they were adopting a child. His widow has since denied that client funds were used to pay for the adoption process.

Last August, the government chief notary, Keith Francis German, was appointed as the notary delegate of all deeds relating to Barbara.

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