A leading member of the local Somali community who was found with €160,000 in undeclared cash at the airport has pleaded not guilty to money laundering. 

Ali Muuse Igaale, 40, was escorted to court from the Corradino Correctional Facility where he has been detained since an arraignment on August 23.

He had been arrested on August 22 while on his way to board a flight to Istanbul after being found in possession of €160,000 in undeclared cash - well above the allowed limit of €10,000.

The suspect, described as a highly trusted community leader, has lived in Malta for eight years. He runs a barber and a clothing outlet in Ħamrun.

His bail request had not been upheld after he failed to supply a residential and business address. Civilian witnesses were also still waiting to testify.

Following further investigation, the police charged him with money laundering, acquiring property through the proceeds of crime and tax evasion. It transpired that he had failed to declare his full income for the years 2018 to 2020.

Prosecuting inspector Oriana Spiteri told the court on Thursday that the source of the €160,000 that had been found in his possession could not be traced. 

Lawyers Franco Debono and Francesca Zarb meanwhile noted that their client had ties to Malta and played a humanitarian role by helping fellow Somalis find jobs and settle down here.

Additionally, material evidence had been preserved, argued the lawyers. 

They added that since his arraignment in August, Igaale had tested positive to COVID and had been unable to attend any court hearing.

After hearing submissions by both parties the court, presided over by magistrate Gabriella Vella, turned down the request as the accused’s close relatives were not Maltese and there was a real risk of absconding.

The court also heard that the sum of €10,000, handed back to Igaale as the maximum amount of money permissible in terms of cash control regulations, appeared to have since gone missing.

The cash was returned to Igaale after he was remanded in custody in August.

But when he asked for his money in jail, prison authorities informed Igaale that the cash could not be traced, the court was told.

A police report was filed and the matter was currently being investigated. 

AG lawyer Karl Muscat assisted prosecuting Inspector Oriana Spiteri. 

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