Police who arrested a government official and his wife on money laundering charges suspect that they may have generated illegal profits through Chinese visa sales.
Malta's consul to Shanghai, Aldo Cutajar, 55, and his wife, Isabel, 52, also face charges of tax evasion and appeared in court on Monday for the compilation of evidence against them.
Prosecuting Inspector Lianne Bonello gave an overview of investigations leading up to the couple’s arrest, presenting three boxes and two large bags of evidence in court.
She said that a list of names and passport numbers were also found alongside cash at the couple’s home, prompting police to suspect that illicit profits were being generated through Chinese visa sales.
The Cutajars insist that their wealth was generated through their interior design business, which had raked in some €2 million mainly from Chinese clients.
Charges were additionally filed against Gemini Design Studios Ltd, a company set up in June 2017 and registered in Limassol, Cyprus.
€2 million in payments
The couple had operated an interior design venture in Malta, with the company going into liquidation in 2005 after the public officer had faced proceedings in court.
They later shifted their business to Cyprus, setting up the new company, with a Cypriot director which provided significant services to a number of clients, including 11 companies in China.
The main beneficiary of this company, which had allegedly received some €2 million in payments from Chinese clients, was Isabel Cutajar.
Files found at the couple’s Naxxar home had contained invoices for said services, the inspector explained.
The couple’s assets included the Naxxar villa, a garage and penthouse at Swatar as well as a property in Tuscany. They also owned two Mercedes vehicles and a Kia, imported locally and paid for in cash.
A police search at the couple’s home had yielded a number of luxury items including four Rolex watches and €544,955 in cash.
Asked by the woman’s lawyer, Joe Giglio, about whether anybody had alleged to have made illegal payments in relation to visa sales, inspector Bonello said investigations were still ongoing.
Two notaries who had published the deeds for the purchase of property by the accused, also testified, confirming that the due diligence process had been satisfactorily carried out. The Swatar property had been purchased by the Cyprus-based company through funds deposited at Satabank.
Representatives of Bank of Valletta and Satabank also testified, presenting documentary evidence in relation to the couple’s bank accounts.
A request for bail could not be considered until all lay witnesses had given evidence. Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech adjourned the case to Thursday, for witnesses to testify.
Lawyer Roberta Bonello assisted Mr Cutajar. Lawyers Joe Giglio and Simon Micallef Stafrace assisted Mrs Cutajar.
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