A part-time secretary, charged with defrauding her former employer out of some €500,000 by misusing signed blank cheques, was remanded in custody upon her arraignment on Tuesday.

Josephine Baldacchino, a 48-year old mother from Mosta, wept as the court turned down her request for bail, rejecting her lawyer’s plea that the decision would negatively impact her child. 

The woman pleaded not guilty to misappropriation, fraud, falsification of documents, misuse of signed cheques and also money laundering.

The alleged offences spanned a period of seven years, dating back to 2014 and were serious because the woman had allegedly betrayed her employer’s trust, argued the prosecution. 

There was also the risk of tampering with evidence since the accused could approach witnesses whom she knew and formerly worked with. 

However, defence lawyer Roberto Montalto rebutted that the alleged victim had only decided to take action following the suspect’s termination of employment last year.

The two were currently engaged in civil proceedings, went on the lawyer, adding that the dispute was being sorted out through the proper legal channels and the only contact between the parties was through their lawyers, the court was told.

Moreover, the woman had an untainted criminal record sheet and had not approached any witnesses since her job was terminated. 

“There are no structures, no complicity,” said Montalto, pointing out that the case was centred around “one cheque book, one victim and one payee.”

Yet parte civile lawyers Matthew Brincat and Arthur Azzopardi pointed out that the suspected wrongdoing had been flagged to the employer by bank officials handling his account.

After hearing submissions by both parties, the court, presided over by magistrate Lara Lanfranco, rejected the request for bail pending the alleged victim’s testimony and also on account of the serious nature of the charges. 

The court also issued a freezing order upon all assets of the accused. 

Inspector George Frendo prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyer Francesco Refalo.

Lawyer Roberto Montalto was defence counsel.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Matthew Brincat appeared parte civile

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