Three years since criminal proceedings kicked off against the daughters of former EU Commissioner John Dalli, the case appears to have ground to a halt.
With serious money-laundering charges hanging over their heads , Louisa Dalli and Claire Gauci Borda returned to court on Friday, for another fruitless session that resulted in a strongly-worded minute by the magistrate.
“It’s not fair for the accused, who are facing serious charges, to turn up and no proof is put forward by the prosecution, sitting after sitting,” said Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, who took over the case from former Magistrate Aaron Bugeja when he was promoted to judge.
The money-laundering charges were issued in 2018 against the sisters, alongside foreign nationals Eloise Corbin Klein, Charles Ray Jackson, Elizabeth Jean Jackson and Robert Mitchell McIvor.
All six were also charged with misappropriation of funds, fraud, making a false declaration to a public authority and falsification of documents.
Three of the other accused have since passed away, explained lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, adding that the sole survivor, Corbin Klein, was in very poor health.
Inspector Hubert Cini recently took over prosecution of the case from Inspector Yvonne Farrugia who was appointed as Malta’s European Prosecutor within the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Before Friday’s sitting, Cini had requested the AG’s Office to file a copy of the proces verbal, the document drawn up by the magistrate who conducted the in genere inquiry.
Yet that document had not yet made it to the records of the ongoing compilation.
The inspector explained how he had been doing his utmost to liaise with the AG’s Office, while still coming to terms with the voluminous documentary evidence involved in the case, some of which was still tucked away in sealed boxes.
Several key players in the case appeared to have changed, he added.
New magistrate, prosecuting officer, AG lawyer
Along with the prosecuting officer, a new AG lawyer had been assigned to work on the case since his predecessor was temporarily out of office, the court was told.
“So the AG knows nothing, the prosecution knows nothing and meanwhile the accused have charges hanging over their heads. This is not fair,” remarked the Magistrate.
She also acknowledged the fact that the inspector had received the handover recently and had not been involved in the case when important witnesses, such as former Inspector Jonathan Ferris, had testified.
Ferris had explained how investigations against Dalli’s daughters and the other accused kicked off upon a complaint from OLAF (the European Anti-Fraud Office), by means of a letter.
“It’s not fair for anyone,” added inspector Cini.
In light of the current impasse, Magistrate Farrugia Frendo directed the prosecution to indicate, by the next sitting, what further evidence it intended to produce so that the court might map the way forward.
“Next time come along with a list of witnesses. If you have none, just tell me so," the court said.
As the brief hearing came to an end, lawyer Stefano Filletti, assisting the Dalli siblings, informed the court that Louisa Dalli would not be attending next month’s sitting in view of her upcoming marriage.
In her absence, the woman would be represented by her legal counsel.
Lawyer Robert Cassar also assisted the Dalli sisters.
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