Melvin Theuma is believed to have started out as a young ‘wheeler-dealer’ involved in relatively small-time financial crime around the Marsa horse racing track.
This would later blossom into a reputation as a mid-level financier of criminal enterprises, using funds largely amassed through loan sharking. He also developed a thriving 'parallel' - and illegal - lottery, which was pegged to the national one.
In fact, police found some €2 million in cash hidden away at his home after his arrest, sources said.
On Monday, he was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for information about the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, as police work to crack arguably the biggest criminal case in Malta's history.
Mr Theuma is today believed to have links to an organised crime group from Marsa that is involved in the smuggling of narcotics and contraband.
Brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, who together with Vince Muscat stand accused of having planted and triggered the device that killed Ms Caruana Galizia, also formed part of that same Marsa network of criminals, sources said.
Birkirkara native Mr Theuma is said to moonlight as a taxi driver at the Portomaso complex which belongs to Yorgen Fenech. He had at one time acted as the businessman’s personal go-for.
Mr Fenech is currently under arrest in connection with the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia.
As for his lottery business, Mr Theuma is known as being ‘good for it’.
“He pays out, cash, no questions asked, when someone wins. This is why he has a good name with people who play in this parallel lotto,” a source said.
As far back as 2003, witnesses testified in cases against Mr Theuma, at the time 25 years old and living in Marsa, for allegedly acting as a small-time loan shark. One of his alleged victims had told authorities and later a court how Mr Theuma had lent him Lm2,000 (€4,650) to bet on Marsa horse races. Within days he had paid him back Lm3,000 (€6,988).
The alleged victim had then borrowed another Lm3,000 (€6,988) and agreed with Mr Theuma on a Lm5,000 (€11,600) lump sum repayment with a Lm120-a-week (€280) penalty in the interim. The money was repaid as agreed. This victim eventually wound up in such deep debt that he then turned to four other people, including other loan sharks, to borrow more money simply to afford the interest payments due to Mr Theuma.
He had been acquitted of the charges brought against him and no appeal had been filed by the police.
Skip ahead to 2014, and Mr Theuma’s name cropped up in other court proceedings, but this time for much more money than a few bets down at the Marsa track.
The case had not been filed against Mr Theuma and no proceedings had ever been taken against him on the claims made during this case.
The owners of a Żebbuġ cafeteria and catering company were embroiled in a case of unlicensed loans for tens of thousands of euros which at one point saw Mr Theuma allegedly pull out a pistol and threaten to kill them if they didn’t agree to hand over a hefty lump sum of €120,00 to him or their company instead.
In fact, sources said Mr Theuma has appeared as the registered owner of other companies and assets, including auto dealerships and a number of vehicles which he was not believed to actually own.
He is also listed as the owner of a number of properties, many of which changed hands in cash deals.
Additional reporting: Jacob Borg
Clarification: Mr Theuma had been acquitted of the charges brought against him in the 2003 usury case. In the 2014 case, Mr Theuma had been mentioned in court but the proceedings were not against him.
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