A man who was extradited to Malta in June to face money laundering charges linked to romance fraud has been handed a suspended sentence and ordered to reimburse the victim whose “kindness and generosity” he exploited.

Johnson Anene, a 41-year old Maltese national born in Nigeria, pleaded guilty to money laundering, receiving stolen property and recidivism.

He was targeted by an arrest warrant in January 2021 but investigators were unable to locate him until last April when he was arrested in the UK and extradited.  

He pleaded not guilty upon his arraignment but when the case continued he changed his plea.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech observed that the accused had acted in concert with others to commit “a mean and despicable offence.”

He had exploited his victim’s “kindness and generosity,” the magistrate remarked.

In earlier sittings it was revealed that Anene was among a group of individuals involved in an online romance fraud scam. The victim was tricked into sending money to a person pretending to be a lonely American soldier in Afghanistan. 

In view of the accused’s early guilty plea, the fact that he was not a first-time offender as well as the nature and circumstances of the offence, the court handed him a two-year jail term suspended for four years.

He was also ordered to reimburse €3,500 in monthly instalments to his victim and cover court expert expenses which total €1,858.

Finally the court also ordered the forfeiture of all assets of the accused and directed the Asset Recovery Bureau to ascertain the list of such assets.

Lawyer Rachel Tua was defence counsel.

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