Updated 1.50pm - Accountant Joe Sammut was taken to court this morning and accused of fraud, misappropriation, non-observance of due diligence and forgery to enable Libyans to set up companies in Malta and become eligible for residence permits.
Arraigned under arrest before duty magistrate Doreen Clarke, Mr Sammut pleaded not guilty.
The court heard three Libyan witnesses produced by the prosecution say how they used Mr Sammut’s services to form companies in Malta. In each of the three cases, the companies never traded in Malta.
When shown documents from their respective individual files with the Citizen and Expatriate Affairs Department, the three witnesses confirmed that the signatures were not theirs and they had never seen the lease agreements for residency attached to the files. The documents pertained to their applications, filed through Mr Sammut’s office, for residency permits.
The witnesses identified Mr Sammut but claimed to have dealt throughout the process with a woman – identified by one witness as Eve – who represented Mr Sammut.
The witnesses claimed to have paid Mr Sammut’s office a fee ranging from €1,700 to €2,100 per shareholder for services rendered. No receipts were given but in one case the receipt was sent by Viber, a mobile phone messaging application, after the person insisted.
The three witnesses all claimed to have companies based in Libya and approached Mr Sammut through Libyan intermediaries to form companies in Malta.
One of the witnesses, Hesham Salaheddin, from Tripoli and who claims to live in Sliema, said the company he formed in Malta to import and export medical equipment had a share capital of €100,000. However, he specified the share capital was held in stock.
Another witness, Fausi Ghait Elzeletni, from Tripoli and who claims to live in Swieqi, said he wanted to set up a business with two other Libyan partners in Malta to buy clothes and export them to Libya.
The third witness, Abdallah Meftah Bakeer, who also lives in Swieqi, said he wanted to open a company to import cars into Malta and export them to Libya.
The witnesses were promised immunity by the police on any wrongdoing they may have perpetrated in relation to this case. The defence objected and insisted the evidence should not be admissible.
Mr Sammut was granted bail against a personal guarantee of €15,000 but will have to sign at the Qawra police station three times a week. Mr Sammut was also barred from going abroad and speaking to witnesses, including his own employees. He had his assets frozen.
The case continues on September 3.
Inspectors Jonathan Ferris and Lara Butters prosectuted while lawyers Michael Sciriha, Martin Fenech and Simon Micalef Stafrace appeared for Mr Sammut.
Times of Malta reported earlier that Nutella, television sets, Ariel soap and juices were just some of the phantom stocks of items worth thousands of euros claimed by Libyan companies set up by Mr Sammut.
An exercise conducted by the Times of Malta has revealed a similar pattern adopted by Mr Sammut in registering Libyan trading companies.
A sample of nine companies registered by Mr Sammut between June and August this year reveals how the share capital in every case is fully paid up and quoted in tranches of 100,000 shares of €1 each.
However, documentation retrieved from the Malta Financial Services Authority’s registry of companies also shows that the allotment to the shareholders consists of tradable stock.
Identical paperwork, bar changes to the names of the shareholders and the stock items, filed for each company by Mr Sammut is also backed up by Libyan invoices purportedly showing the stock is fully paid up.
However, sources said the companies never carried out trading in Malta, raising suspicions over the veracity of the invoices and the existence of the stocks.
The invoices are certified as true copies of the original by Mr Sammut and the totals work out at approximately €100,000 per shareholder.
Two Libyans who registered their company in Malta presented an invoice supposedly issued by the Tripoli-based sole representative of Samsung in Libya, claiming to have bought €223,000 worth of 48-inch Samsung curved LED smart TVs. The television sets are deemed to be an integral part of the Maltese company’s inventories.
And the pattern continues for each of the nine companies. Another company registered by Mr Sammut claims to have €100,000 worth of Tronky and Cote D’Or chocolates. Another has an inventory of juices worth €300,000, while a company with four shareholders has €400,000 worth of stock consisting of sanitary hardware like wash basins.
Yet another company has stock in trade consisting of “import and export of consumer goods” singling out three chocolate brands – Kinder Bueno, Kinder Chocolate and Nutella.
Another company registered by Mr Sammut claims to have €100,000 worth of Tronky and Cote D’Or chocolates
Most of the Libyans involved in these companies have home addresses in Tripoli but Mr Sammut has also had individuals from Misurata and Zliten.
Mr Sammut’s name cropped up in court two weeks ago when Libyan national Arab Ali Khalefa from Tripoli admitted before Magistrate Francesco Depasquale that he gave the accountant false details to help him set up a company in Malta.
In court, immigration officials had said investigations into any wrongdoing by Mr Sammut drew a blank as it resulted that Mr Khalefa had provided false information.
But the case raised question marks since Mr Khalefa’s application had incorrectly stated that he spoke English. The police also said Mr Khalefa could not tell them how many shares he held in the company.
Sources said the system devised by Mr Sammut helped Libyan nationals wanting to escape turmoil in their country to set up companies in Malta through which they could then claim residency permits.
On his website Mr Sammut vaunts his deep links with Libya, something that became apparent during the Libya crisis in 2011 when it transpired he handled the financial affairs of the Gaddafi family.
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