A former senior gaming authority official and his wife have appeared in court charged with money laundering in connection to his work at the regulator.

Jason Farrugia, 34, and his wife, Christine, 26, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday afternoon.

They were jointly charged with money laundering while Farrugia was separately charged with a raft of other alleged offences, including extortion, accepting bribes, fraud exceeding €5,000, misappropriation, trading in influence, disclosing confidential information and computer misuse. 

Bail was denied. 

Scant detail was given to the court about the investigations that led to the arrest of Farrugia, former chief technology officer with the regulator, and his wife.

Farrugia resigned from the MGA in December last year after he was suspected of leaking sensitive internal information. 

Sources within the regulator said at the time that he was suspected of having made irregular access to confidential and commercially sensitive information held at the authority. 

He was suspended from the MGA shortly before his resignation and an internal review decided to dismiss him and refer the matter to the police. He tendered his resignation after he was informed of the MGA's decision. 

Six-month investigation

The court heard that police investigations against the former MGA official had been ongoing for some six months or so.

Farrugia, who described himself as self-employed, sat alongside his wife, a nurse and mother-of-two when they appeared in court.

The wife’s lawyer, Lennox Vella, strongly appealed for bail, highlighting the fact that the couple had a three-month-old baby and another one-and-a-half-year-old child who would end up being cared for by third parties if their mother was remanded in custody.

“This woman is no criminal. She has never stepped into court,” argued Vella, stressing that any prejudice was “definitely against her to the full.”

Bail denied

Not only was there the presumption of innocence but the court was to ensure that the individual’s rights were safeguarded.

The husband’s lawyer, Mario Buttigieg, explained that he was involved in the case “from day one,” ever since the police probe kicked off. 

All evidence was preserved in the records of the magisterial inquiry, thus reducing the risk of tampering.

Moreover, through all these months the suspect had made no attempt to contact any of the witnesses and in fact, the prosecution had voiced no complaint in that regard. 

Attorney General lawyer Nathaniel Falzon however rebutted that the defence was playing the sympathy card in respect of the wife.

Legal principles applied across the board, no matter whether the accused was married or single or a parent.

Moreover, the magisterial inquiry was not yet wrapped up and investigations were still ongoing, possibly leading to other suspects and civilian witnesses.

Court experts also had to testify. 

The risk of tampering with evidence existed at this premature stage of the proceedings, argued the prosecution lawyer.

After weighing those submissions the court, presided over by magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace, turned down the request for bail.

The court upheld the prosecution’s request for a freezing order over all assets of the couple, in terms of the money laundering act. 

The couple was escorted out of the room, with the woman in tears. 

Inspectors Marcus Cachia and Thomas Zammit prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyers Francesco Refalo and Nathaniel Falzon. 

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