A man convicted of insurance fraud was cleared on appeal mainly on the strength of a priest’s testimony confirming that a gold choker had been stolen from the accused 10 years ago. 

Anthony McKay, 50, had reported at the Rabat police station back in November 2010, that his gold chain, worth some €7,000, had gone missing the previous day while he was attending a football match at the Ta’ Qali stadium.

The man had subsequently filed a claim with his insurance company which had ultimately handed over an ex gratia payment of €2,000 to cut short further issues with the client. 

However, in February 2011, the missing item of jewellery made its way back to its rightful owner through a priest who had received it during confession by the person who confessed to have taken it from McKay. 

The matter was reported to the police and McKay was asked to refund the €2,000 to the insurance company. 

But the matter did not end there. 

After the choker was reported missing, McKay had also reported how a man, with whom he had some outstanding issue, was threatening to report him to the police for defrauding the insurers by filing a false claim. 

When spoken to by the police, this third party said that McKay had told him how he had reported the choker missing so as to get some money out of the insurers and had also slashed the tyres of a car belonging to a female employee at the insurance office, after she had failed to clear his claim. 

Investigations led to charges being issued against McKay for insurance fraud and wilful damage to third party property. 

In 2018, he was found guilty by a Magistrates’ Court of the insurance fraud and was placed under a three-year probation and treatment order.

Yet, when the case went to appeal stage, the court, presided over by Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja, observed that the conviction had been based mainly on circumstantial evidence which though “highly suspicious” did not unequivocally point “solely and exclusively” at the accused. 

The third-party who made the fraud allegations was of “dubious credibility,” observed the court, noting further that the priest’s testimony had weakened the prosecution’s case.

After getting back his choker, McKay had in fact reported the matter to the police and had been asked to refund the insurance company, the court said, upholding the appeal and pronouncing an acquittal.

Lawyer Kathleen Calleja Grima assisted the accused. 

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