Gaming consultant Iosif Galea had wired former Malta Gaming Authority chief technical officer Jason Farrugia €130,600, in 177 transactions, a court heard on Wednesday.
Galea, himself a former compliance officer at the Malta Gaming Authority, is under arrest in Italy as part of German investigation into tax evasion. He is also wanted in Malta over an alleged racket involving leaked information from the gaming regulator.
Former technical officer Jason Farrugia, 34, and his 26-year old wife Christine were arraigned last week and are pleading not guilty to money laundering charges. He is also facing separate charges over a raft of alleged offences, including extortion, accepting bribes, fraud, misappropriation, trading in influence, disclosing confidential information and computer misuse.
Police investigations explained
When the hearing continued on Wednesday, prosecuting Inspector Thomas Zammit testified how in February, the police cybercrime unit had called for investigations into Jason Farrugia and another former gaming authority official, Iosif Galea, over suspected dealings in confidential information obtained by Farrugia.
Investigators sent out a request to all banks for information about transactions between the two suspects.
It turned out that between August and September 2021, Galea had wired to Farrugia via Revolut some €130,600, in 177 transactions.
In a separate transaction, Farrugia sent Galea €360.
That bank data showed a series of transactions involving a number of cheques issued by Galea in favour of Farrugia and his wife.
Between mid-January 2019 and November 2020, Galea issued six cheques totaling €11,000 in favour of Farrugia.
He also issued 17 cheques addressed to Farrugia’s wife, Christine, eleven of which were deposited in her husband’s savings account at BNF Bank while another six were deposited in his current account.
The total value of those 17 cheques was €29,150.
Asked by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech whether those signed cheques were countersigned by the payee, the inspector replied in the affirmative. However during her audiovisual interrogation, when asked about those cheques the woman said that she did not know anything about the transactions nor about any other monies deposited in the account.
Another three cheques totaling €4000 were deposited in the couple’s joint account.
Information from the Commissioner of Inland Revenue showed that between 2017 and 2021 Farrugia had only declared his salary as MGA official as income on his tax return.
An arrest warrant was issued against both husband and wife.
Under interrogation, the man opted for his right to silence, only confirming that he had declared his salary for tax purposes.
Three former senior colleagues of Farrugia testified about how it all started back in December 2021 when a meeting was convened at the MGA to discuss how allegedly leaked invoices had ended up on ShiftNews.
Using technology which monitored user activity, it resulted that those particular invoices had been accessed by three members from the finance team and also by an account that had the name of ‘FarrJ266.’
That account belonged to Farrugia who had allegedly copied the invoices and ‘zipped’ them on his work laptop when he had no reason to do so.
Matthew Busuttil, one of the MGA witnesses, explained how he had called Farrugia, asking him to meet so as to provide an explanation.
But Farrugia refused, saying that his account had been hacked.
Busuttil insisted that Farrugia was to go to speak to the CEO, but still he refused.
Although two IT managers were instructed to deactivate Farrugia’s accounts, the document management system (DMS) showed that there had been various downloads, testified data manager Dennis Vella.
On December 9, Farrugia’s access was blocked but that same day he managed to log in again, since his accounts had not yet been disabled by MITA.
However, further access to the system was blocked and Farrugia could do nothing after that, explained Owen Bugeja, in charge of the software development team.
His activity trail was closely analyzed and matched “down to the second.”
Police moved in and eventually were handed over all documentation gathered by the authority.
The suspected criminal activity consisted in MGA data allegedly leaked by Farrugia, against payments by Galea.
Those payments were then allegedly deposited in the couple’s accounts.
No objections to bail
At the end of Wednesday sitting both Jason and Christine Farrugia were granted bail, with no objection from the prosecution.
They were both controversially refused bail last week despite having just had a baby. A lawyer representing Christine Farrugia had 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,” he pleaded stressing that any prejudice was “definitely against her to the full.”
The court's decision to refuse bail to the young mother was strongly criticised in sections of the social media. Former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca was among those who expressed 'shock' in a Facebook post.
On Wednesday, Farrugia was granted bail against a deposit of €25,000, a personal guarantee of €75,000, signing the bail book twice a week and abiding by a curfew between 11pm and 6am.
His wife was granted bail against a deposit of €10,000 and a personal guarantee of €40,000.
While Christine Farrugia was released immediately, her husband could not immediately come up with the bail money and was taken away in a prison van.
Inspector Thomas Zammit prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyers Nathaniel Falzon and Francesco Refalo.
Lawyers Mario Buttigieg, Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin are counsel to the husband.
Lawyer Lennox Vella is counsel to the wife.