A disgraced notary is being chased by a string of angry clients after allegedly running off with tens of thousands of euros in home deposits.
Thomas Vella features as a defendant in at least nine civil lawsuits, including former clients desperate to recoup down payments they trusted him with for their future homes.
He is also facing criminal prosecution for misappropriating client funds.
A Facebook page set up by his victims alleges that his “flamboyant lifestyle”, backed by pictures of fine wines and expensive football tickets, was all apparently funded by their “stolen” property deposits.
Vella is now employed as a waiter.
One victim who spoke to Times of Malta claimed that he handed over to Vella a €14,500 property deposit in 2019, only to find out months later that the promise of sale agreement was never registered with the inland revenue office and the stamp duty was never paid.
The victim, like many others, remains out of pocket to this day.
Stripped of warrant
Vella was charged with misappropriation in 2019, with the case yet to be concluded. He was also slapped with an asset freeze in connection with the case.
The notarial council stripped Vella of his warrant that same year.
A review of his activities in 2018 by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) discovered that Vella failed to keep basic client paperwork, like the deeds of sale on client properties.
Court filings show the FIAU, too, is chasing Vella to pay the €60,500 fine for the “systemic and serious” breaches in his obligations to carry out basic anti-money laundering checks on his clients.
The FIAU noted how, at the time, Vella showed a “complete disinterest” in improving his operations.
A spokesperson for the notarial council, a body that oversees the profession, said that individuals “who have strayed away from the correct path” are found in every profession and sphere of business and are rare exceptions.
“With pride, we say that, bar a very minimal number of former members of the Maltese notarial college, all the hundreds of other members past and present exercise and satisfied their professional requirements flawlessly,” the spokesperson said.
Vella, son of the late judge Patrick Vella, did not respond to a request for comment sent via his lawyer.
In April 2019, an Irish tourist who had just landed in Malta was hit by a “drunk” driver, leaving the holidaymaker with multiple fractures and a severe brain injury.
Times of Malta has confirmed that Vella was at the wheel of the car that ran over David Cooley in the incident.
Cooley was this month awarded €3.1 million in compensation by an Irish court, after suing Vella’s insurers, Mapfre Middlesea.
His lawyer, Dan Wall, was critical of the way the Maltese authorities handled the case, saying that there had been no contact from them since his client left Malta in an air ambulance.
Cooley’s case raised serious questions about the civil and criminal justice system in Malta in the context of it being an EU state, Wall said.
A police spokesperson told Times of Malta that charges were issued against Vella and court procedures were concluded.
The spokesperson, however, failed to say that Vella was let off with a mere slap on the wrist, in the form of a conditional discharge.
One legal source pointed towards prosecution failures in the case, as the main charges ended up being thrown out.
The authorities never appealed against the conditional discharge, sources said.
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