The widow of notary Ivan Barbara, whose clients were left chasing their money, has appealed a magistrate’s decision for an inquiry into possible misappropriation and fraud, saying she was extraneous to her husband’s dealings.
Rosanne Barbara Zarb, who renounced her husband’s inheritance, said the clients had not proved the link between her and the notary’s alleged wrongdoing. The only link, she said, was that she had been married to him.
She has asked the court to revoke a decree by Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo who ruled earlier this month that the clients had satisfied the requisites for the launch of an in genere inquiry.
The notary died suddenly of COVID-19 after having contracted the virus in India earlier this year, while he was visiting the country to adopt a child.
The request for an inquiry was made by Matthew Sacco, Simon Mallia and Valerie Mallia, who had handed Barbara cheques amounting to a total of €30,650 in relation to promise-of-sale agreements they had signed.
In their application filed last August, the three clients said they had deposited thousands of euros with notary Barbara and their money is nowhere to be seen. More clients have come forward since then.
But the notary’s widow said there was absolutely no evidence to back what is being alleged.
She said even though the application mentions fraud and misappropriation, there is no allegation that the said amounts were entrusted or passed on to her, or that they were, in any way, received by her.
Her lawyers, Kris Busietta and Patrick Valentino argued that this was a basic and necessary element for the crime of misappropriation to subsist. On the crime of fraud, Barbara Zarb never met or communicated with the clients, so this factor alone excludes the possibility of carrying out the alleged crime.
Barbara Zarb insisted that the clients had made “the imaginary connection” as a consequence of her marriage with the notary, “which is almost irrelevant in the criminal field”.
She said she wondered why the complainants did not request access to another notary who worked in the same office, who was aware of everything that was happening and who had absolute access to every document and the processing of money received.
She explained she is an accountant by profession and throughout her 19-year marriage, they exercised their respective professions separately and independently of each other, kept separate bank accounts, except for one joint account from where they paid their daily family expenses, and did not interfere in each other’s work.
The allegation that the applicant kept the books or took care of her husband’s accounts was simply a lie and based on speculation. She also denied that client funds were used to pay for the adoption process.
Barbara Zarb said that when she returned to Malta from India with her adopted daughter but without her husband, she had asked his colleague for a list of pending work left by her husband. She saw that, at a glance, the statement showed he had several arrears and outstanding deposits, which did not appear to be covered by money in the clients’ account which he held. Based on legal advice she renounced her husband’s inheritance.
Her lawyers argued that the first court did not take these facts into consideration and “almost automatically” considered that their client may have been involved in the criminal offences mentioned by the complainants.
They, therefore, called on the appeals court to revoke the magistrate’s order for an inquiry.
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