A former top police officer who investigated both Jonathan Ferris and Karl Cini for Egrant perjury was unable to tell a court why only one of the two had been charged with the crime.
Yvonne Farrugia testified that she had questioned both men and treated the two cases with equal priority. But when asked why only Ferris had been charged with perjury, she said she could not say.
“I wish to answer that question, but I’m bound by loyalty to the court and my work. I take responsibility for my work…,” Farrugia told the court.
She was testifying in proceedings against Ferris, a former police inspector and FIAU officer who stands accused of lying under oath while testifying before magistrate now judge Aaron Bugeja about secret company Egrant.
Farrugia told the court she was assigned the task of investigating Ferris by her then-boss at the Financial Crimes Investigation Department, assistant commissioner Ian Abdilla, in August 2018.
She left the police force to join the European Public Prosecutors’ Office in August 2020 and the investigation had not yet been concluded by that point. Farrugia said she had still not decided on how to proceed with it by that stage.
Ferris and former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova were charged with perjury later that year. Cini, a former partner at Nexia BT who the Egrant inquiry magistrate also said should be investigated for perjury, was never charged.
According to Ferris’ defence lawyer Jason Azzopardi, it is now too late for the police to do so as the charges are now time-barred.
Why Ferris was investigated
Ferris had testified about a suspicious €1 million transaction from the daughter of Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Alijev to Buttardi, a company owned by Michelle Buttigieg, a close friend of the former prime minister’s wife Michelle Muscat.
The transaction, he testified, had been masked as a loan.
The testimony formed part of Bugeja’s investigation into allegations that Muscat was the secret owner of offshore company Egrant.
However, a forensic expert tasked with seeking evidence to confirm Ferris’ claim was unable to trace the alleged transaction, thus leading the inquiring magistrate to conclude that Ferris was to be investigated for perjury.
An arrest warrant was issued against Ferris on August 8, 2018 and under questioning, the former inspector stuck to the version had given at the inquiry.
He based his claims upon “FIAU working documents” and made reference to a compliance report by the FIAU concerning Pilatus Bank.
Farrugia told a court this week that she had requested a copy of that report, which had been presented in a separate inquiry conducted by now-judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera.
Her next step was to analyze that document, but she had not yet done so and had therefore not yet reached a decision on pressing charges against Ferris when the time came in August 2020 to take up a new post at the EPPO.
Investigator did not question Michelle Muscat
Defence lawyer Azzopardi noted that, in the Egrant inquiry, the magistrate had instructed police to give Ferris “the opportunity to explain himself before any criminal action was taken in his regard”, while recommending criminal charges for Cini.
Yet the police had pressed charges against Ferris and not against Cini, he went on.
But Farrugia would not be drawn to comment about that, replying that she had prepared herself to answer questions about Ferris’ case and although both stemmed from the same inquiry, they were not related.
“They were two separate files. This was about Jonathan Ferris not Karl Cini,” said Farrugia.
Farrugia confirmed that she had questioned Cini during that period, but said she could not recall whether she had also sent for former Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna.
She had never questioned Michelle Muscat or Michelle Buttigieg, she said in reply to questions.
Asked if she had investigated Buttigieg’s purchase of an $800,000 Manhattan property shortly after the alleged Pilatus Bank transaction, the witness said Ferris had never mentioned that during his various police interrogations.
“I asked him three times over what he was basing his allegation on. He spoke of having ‘found’[sibt] a bank transaction,” she said.
“We found [sibna]” Ferris and his lawyer interjected, stressing the plural “we.”
Farrugia told the court that Ferris had spoken of “working documents” when asked what he had based his allegation, so she had focused her energy on those.
“I was handed the file to give Ferris the chance to explain how he reached that conclusion concerning that €1 million transaction…He referred only to that compliance report. At no point did he tell me where to go.”
The case continues.
Inspector Wayne Borg prosecuted.