A pastizzerija worker successfully challenged insurance companies which had refused the renewal of his policies because of money laundering charges he was facing.

Daniel Briffa risked missing out on his life policy and car insurance cover because of a blanket freezing order issued against him.

The 36-year-old from Birkirkara had purchased a life insurance policy in 2020, saving up on it by means of €40 monthly payments.

He also owned a Toyota Starlet 1998 model that was covered by an insurance policy that was due to expire in May 2023.

The man had initially been targeted by police investigations over suspected criminal activity, possibly linked to drugs. During a police search at his residence, no drugs were found but a loaded revolver came to light. The suspect also had in his possession a significant number of gold jewellery items worth thousands of euros.

Briffa was last year charged under summons, pleading not guilty to money laundering and fraud to the detriment of the Social Security Department.

He was also charged with document fraud, making a false declaration as well as failing to declare his income with the commissioner for revenue between 2013 and 2020.

He was further charged with possessing a firearm and carrying a pointed weapon without a police licence, as well as relapsing.

During the first hearing of his case, in June 13, 2022, the Magistrates’ Court issued a freezing order – synonymous with money-laundering charges – covering all assets of the accused, both movable and immovable, save for an annual allowance of €13,976 in terms of law.

One year down the line, criminal proceedings still ongoing

One year down the line, those criminal proceedings are still ongoing before the Magistrates’ Court. However, more recently, Briffa encountered fresh problems in the form of two letters he received from his insurers.

The first letter issued in April was to inform him that since the company had been served with a freezing order in Briffa’s name, it was “not in a position to accept premium payments under the [life] policy for the period that the order remains in force, unless the court decrees otherwise”. 

Unless payment was authorised, the life policy would be cancelled with effect from December 2023.

The following month, a second letter followed, this time from his car insurance company, informing him that they “were unable to invite renewal” of his policy and directing him to seek alternative insurance cover.

Faced with that dual problem, Briffa sought recourse before the courts.

A second letter followed, this time from his car insurance company, informing him that they were unable to invite renewal of his policy and directing him to seek alternative insurance cover

His lawyer, David Gatt, filed an application seeking the court’s authorisation to make the necessary payments so as to renew and save both insurance policies.

The attorney general requested representatives of both insurance companies to testify so as to explain why they had refused to renew the policies.

The crucial point was to officially determine that the debts owed to the creditors [the insurance companies] in good faith existed prior to the entry into effect of the freezing order and that the accused was the debtor, and no one else.

The Criminal Court, presided over by Mr Justice Neville Camilleri upheld Briffa’s requests thereby authorising him to make the relative payments on his life policy and car insurance.

Lawyer David Gatt is defence counsel.

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