Updated 12.40pm, adds PN statement
Gaming consultant Iosif Galea had been wanted by German authorities since last year but was only arrested last week while on holiday in Italy with a group that included former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Police sources confirmed that Galea, who is also wanted to face separate charges in Malta, had been subject to a European Arrest Warrant since early last year. They said he had travelled out of Malta at least two other times before he was finally arrested in Italy earlier this month.
When Galea was taken in handcuffs by the Italian Guardia di Finanza, he was holidaying with his partner and a group that included the Muscats.
Contacted for a comment, the former prime minister said that while he was travelling with Galea as part of a group holiday, he had absolutely no connection to the case, adding that “to indicate to the contrary is not only gratuitous but also totally baseless sensationalism”.
Muscat said he was not spoken to by the police and was not aware of any pending arrest warrant against Galea.
“Mr Galea has for the past few months been the boyfriend of a long-time friend who was in the group,” Muscat said. “We were travelling with a larger group of friends and acquaintances for a short holiday. A few hours after our arrival we were informed that Mr Galea was being detained. The rest of the group continued with our holiday and returned to Malta a few days later as planned,” he said.
Muscat added that he has never had any personal or professional relationship with Galea.
Galea is wanted in Malta over an alleged racket involving leaked information from the gaming regulator. Although Malta issued an arrest warrant for him earlier this month, it is not yet clear whether he will be brought back to the island or if he will first face investigators in Germany.
Questions sent to the Maltese police about how Galea was allowed to repeatedly travel out of Malta despite being the subject of a German arrest warrant did not solicit a response by the time of going to print.
Galea was allowed to repeatedly travel out of Malta despite being the subject of a German arrest warrant
Galea, who runs his own consultancy firm, was previously a compliance officer at the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), which was called the Lotteries and Gaming Authority. Maltese investigators believe he has since received sensitive insider information from within the regulator and may have passed this on to interested parties. He is expected to face money laundering and tax evasion charges in Malta.
Meanwhile, he is expected to face charges in Germany related to financial crime, including tax evasion.
Galea is no stranger to controversy. He had appeared as a witness in the case against former European commissioner John Dalli’s top aide, Silvio Zammit.
Zammit, who died earlier this year, had been facing criminal proceedings since 2012 over his alleged request for a €60 million bribe from snus manufacturer Swedish Match and the European Smokeless Tobacco Council, a lobby group, to help lift a ban on the chewable tobacco.
At the time, Dalli was health commissioner and the scandal had led to his resignation.
Last week, another former senior official at the gaming authority, together with his wife, were charged in court in connection with the leaking of sensitive insider information from the authority. Jason Farrugia, 34, former chief technology officer at the MGA, and his wife, Christine, 26, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Wednesday.
In a statement on Sunday, PN spokesman for Home Affairs Joe Giglio said the news that a person wanted through a European Arrest Warrant had been allowed to leave Malta was disturbing and worrisome.
It showed that Malta's enforcement systems are not working well and this is a threat to the country's security because it means that people wanted abroad can enter and leave Malta unhindered, Giglio said as he asked the minister and the police commissioner to explain.