A Malta-born priest has been charged with indecent assault in his hometown of Melbourne.

Fr Victor Farrugia, the parish priest of St Augustine church in Melbourne's Bourke Street, was charged on summons with eight counts of indecent assault last week, according to Australian newspaper The Age.

The newspaper said Fr Farrugia's lawyers had been inadvertently tipped off by a private investigator hired by the Church, that the police were investigating the priest for alleged sexual abuse.

The tip-off by Peter O'Callaghan QC left the police unable to use certain methods to collect information, including recording the alleged victim phoning Fr Farrugia. However, they still managed to gather enough evidence to charge him.

The paper did not say when the assault incidents are alleged to have taken place. Fr Farrugia became the parish priest of St Augustine church in January 2009. It is understood he was previously parish priest at Our Lady Help of Christians church in East Brunswick, where he served for 18 years.

In an interview shown on PBS in 1996 he spoke fluent Maltese although it is believed he moved to Australia when young.

According to Malta's Australian High Commissioner Francis Tabone, Fr Farrugia did not spend time with the Maltese community in Australia, although Edwina Mallia, a Maltese woman living in Australia, said he was well-known among many Maltese living in Victoria and had done a lot of good work there. She said she could not believe it was "the same person" she knew. Similarly, Mr Tabone said: "He has a very good reputation as being a good priest."

An announcement on the East Brunswick website in December 2008 invited people to a dinner dance "where we will be sadly saying goodbye to our wonderful parish priest of 18 years, Fr Victor Farrugia".

According to the Wellington Eucharist Convention, which Fr Farrugia addressed in 2004, he was born in Malta and was part of the Catholic Charismatic Movement since the 1970s.

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