Thursday, October 28, 2021

Maltese business tycoon Yorgen Fenech charged with money laundering

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Yorgen Fenech has been charged with money laundering and the misappropriation of funds from a company he owns with his uncle Ray Fenech.

Fenech, who is facing separate charges in which he is accused of masterminding the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was charged on Monday afternoon with money laundering offences.

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Last week, he was arraigned on separate charges for the attempt to buy weapons off the dark web. The latest two cases against Fenech are unrelated.

In today’s arraignment, Inspector Brian Paul Camilleri accused Fenech of money laundering, concealing the provenance of property, which he knew came from criminal activity, and the use of property acquired from criminal activity. Fenech was also accused of complicity in these crimes under the Money Laundering Act and the Criminal Code.

He also was charged with misappropriation to the detriment of Glimmer Ltd and defrauding the company for an amount in excess of €5,000. Glimmer Ltd is majority-owned by a company in which Fenech and his uncle Ray Fenech hold equal shareholding.

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Fenech pleaded not guilty. His assets bar those received from inheritance were frozen.

The inspector told the court he was in possession of electronic data gathered by the police in a separate investigation. These messages dealt with criminal activity involving third parties, he testified.

Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca said the messages had been in the police’s hands for two years. “I don’t want to put the carriage before the horse but when one looks at who is suffering damages in this case and what the amount of damages is… one would question the urgency of the arraignment,” Mercieca said.

Fenech appeared in front of Magistrate Ian Farrugia. The case will now be assigned to another magistrate for the compilation of evidence to start.

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Apart from Fenech, two other men faced similar prosecutions on Monday. Two men, 46-year-old Nicholas Cachia and his 67-year-old father Joseph Cachia, were arrested after messages from an electronic gadget referred to criminal accusations being made against them.

Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Nicholas Cachia was mentioned as being the man with whom Fenech discussed plans to escape from Malta following his arrests.

Due to the nature of the accusations, and because the accused own foreign assets, the prosecution was against having bail granted in their favour.

However, the defence questioned how police could arraign people simply for having been mentioned in a chat. Defence lawyer Matthew Brincat argued that Nicholas Cachia has strong ties to Malta, including a family and business, and so the risk of him escaping the country is low.

The magistrate eventually decreed that the accused must be remanded in police custody, with their assets frozen.

Anthony Farrugia ‘il-Buddy’ and Patrick Demanuele were also arraigned over similar charges. Demanuele is Tumas Group’s Chief Operating Officer, while Farrugia is a former director of one of Fenech’s companies. Both were represented by lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell.

Tonna Lowell strongly argued against denying bail to the accused, arguing that the two had cooperated with police and had already been on police bail with regards to money laundering activity.

He more seriously alleged that the Office of the Attorney General “is in a position of strength, able to stamp its feet and have bail denied, simply to allow the squalid practice of sending people to prison for a couple of weeks until they are granted bail in a subsequent sitting”.

Tonna Lowell added that the two men have a clean criminal record, and always cooperated fully with police. “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he stated.

This wasn’t enough to convince the magistrate, who eventually decreed against bail for the two.

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