A suspected drug dealer whose Ferrari was sold off by the Asset Recovery Bureau, despite him never being convicted of a crime in Malta, will receive €70,000 in compensation after the attorney general lost a constitutional court appeal against the damages awarded.
The attorney general took to the constitutional court in a bid to reduce the damages payable to Italian national Davide Sapienza after a lower court ruled that the sale had violated his human rights seeing that he had never been sentenced in Malta.
Furthermore, Sapienza contended that the Ferrari was sold for a fraction of its value, which an expert appraisal submitted by the Italian national put at €80,000.
The Ferrari 360 Modena was sold last year for €36,505 during an auction in Wales, resulting in a profit of €28,700 for the bureau once the auction costs had been deducted.
The bureau traces criminal assets, manages confiscated ones and disposes of them. All proceeds from the sale of such assets are returned to public coffers. An expert hired by the bureau had valued the Ferrari at €55,000, although the estimate had not factored in the €20,000 worth of extras installed by Sapienza.
The constitutional court said that the bureau did not appear to have put a reserve price on the Ferrari if it failed to sell for less than the €55,000 value given by the expert.
It was also noted that the bureau’s expert had not been given a list of the Ferrari’s extras.
The court dismissed the attorney general’s argument that Sapienza, represented by Therese Comodini Cachia, had not proven he owned the Ferrari.
A proposed bill is set to give the bureau more powers to seize criminal assets while court proceedings are still ongoing.
The burden of proof will be on the individual to show he acquired the contested asset through legitimate means.
In its first annual report for 2018, the asset recovery bureau’s chairperson Joseph Camilleri had lamented it had not been given the promised resources and expertise when it was set up.
Despite existing on paper since 2015, the bureau only became operational in 2018.
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