The authorities sat on a German arrest warrant for wanted gaming consultant Iosif Galea for nearly a year and it has still not been fully processed.
The matter is the subject of a review by the independent police complaints board, which is looking into how Galea was allowed to travel out of the country repeatedly despite being the subject of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Germany. He is wanted in Germany over a tax evasion probe and separately in Malta over his alleged involvement in a racket at the gaming regulator.
He was arrested while on holiday in Italy last month as part of a group that included former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Times of Malta has learnt that the Maltese police essentially sat on the German request for some nine months. Malta first received notice of the German EAW for Galea in May 2021.
Once a warrant of this nature is received, the police cannot automatically arrest the subject but instead must seek authorisation from the office of the Attorney General.
It turns out that the police inspector assigned to refer the matter to the AG only did so around nine months after it was first received, sending a request at the end of last January.
Sources said the Maltese inspector responsible will be quizzed by the complaints board in the coming days, adding that the delay was “not normal” and warranted an explanation.
Galea was arrested in Italy nearly two weeks later by the Italian Guardia di Finanza.
The Maltese police then moved to issue their own EAW to have Galea brought to Malta, but at this point he was already under arrest in Italy with judicial authorities now set to decide whether to send him to Germany or bring him to the island.
In Malta, he is wanted for his alleged role in a racket that saw commercially sensitive information leaked from the gaming regulator.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General has so far not provided the Maltese police with the necessary authorisation to arrest Galea for the German EAW, meaning that even if he had not gone on that holiday to Italy, Malta would still not be able to arrest him and send him over to Germany.
“Prior to his arrest in Italy, Galea had been put on police bail by Maltese investigators”
Sources said that while the AG’s office had been in contact with their German counterparts, the necessary information to arrest him in Malta had not yet been handed over.
This, one source in the office suggested, may be because of “a lack of trust” German authorities have in Maltese law enforcement.
Earlier this year, the German authorities issued what is known as an investigation order, requesting that Maltese authorities look into Galea’s activities and report back.
Prior to his arrest in Italy, Galea had been put on police bail by Maltese investigators. This is when a person being questioned in relation to an investigation is released but told not to leave the country as they may still be needed for further questioning.
Galea was given permission to travel out of Malta in May by the Maltese police. The officer that approved this bail is expected to also be questioned by the complaints board.
Concerns have been raised about the complaints board review, with activists and even a police union, saying a fully independent public inquiry should be carried out instead.
Galea is wanted by Malta police to face charges over his suspected involvement in a racket that saw commercially sensitive information leaked from within the Malta Gaming Authority.
Jason Farrugia, formerly the MGA’s chief technology officer, was last month charged with money laundering and fraud among other offences after he allegedly leaked sensitive client information from the regulator.
His wife, Christine, 26, was also charged. Both were denied bail.
Galea transferred more than €130,000 to Farrugia over the course of a few months, but never declared this with the authorities.
Galea was himself previously a compliance officer at the MGA, which was called the Lotteries and Gaming Authority at the time but left in 2013. He is no stranger to controversy, having been suspected of playing a role in the bribery scandal that ended the career of former European commissioner John Dalli.
He had been questioned over allegations that he had tipped off one of Dalli’s top aides about the bribery investigation being conducted by the EU’s anti-fraud agency OLAF.