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Identity Malta employee ‘tried to empty his accounts before bank received freezing order’

An Identity Malta employee whose assets were frozen when he was charged with embezzling funds has denied withdrawing €41,000 of his savings before his bank was made aware of the freezing order

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
19 July 2017, 1:30pm
The accused had tried to withdraw more funds yesterday but was stopped by the bank
The accused had tried to withdraw more funds yesterday but was stopped by the bank
An Identity Malta employee whose assets were frozen when he was charged with embezzling funds has denied withdrawing €41,000 of his savings before his bank was made aware of the freezing order.

60-year-old Joseph Calleja from Mosta had been charged with misappropriation, fraud and falsification of documents – offences aggravated by his position as a public officer on 7 July. That day, magistrate Joe Mifsud had granted him bail against a deposit of €1,000 and a personal guarantee of €10,000 as well as ordering that his accounts be frozen, in view of the nature of the charges.

But Calleja was arraigned in court again today, being accused by inspector Priscilla Caruana Lee of having breached an order of the court, breaching one of his bail conditions and contravening a freezing order.

Magistrate Neville Camilleri was told that on Friday 7 July, Calleja had been released from arrest, after being accused of misappropriating between €20,000 and €25,000 from his employer, Identity Malta. Immediately after his release, he had withdrawn €20,000 from a bank branch and then proceeded to withdraw another €21,000 the following Monday, the court was told. He had tried to withdraw more funds yesterday but was stopped by the bank, at which point the police were called.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono informed the court that Calleja was pleading not guilty to the charges and requested his client's release from arrest. Inspector Caruana Lee objected to the request. It is understood that the cash was found at Calleja's sister's residence.

Debono argued that his client had committed a genuine mistake and that the accused had been unaware of the fact that he was prohibited from withdrawing funds. “The orders of the court must be obeyed. But the money was returned to the police. This was not a breach of bail.”

Lawyer Josette Sultana, who is also appearing for Calleja, described the charge as “a technical offence.” “When a freezing order is issued, the banks are notified the next day. I cannot understand why they weren't notified as normal.”

Inspector Caruana Lee deposited a €36,500 cash bundle in court, whilst observing that a genuine mistake does not normally lead to the storing of cash at a third party's residence. The remaining €4,500 are understood to be unaccounted for.

The court, after hearing defence and prosecution's submissions on bail and taking into consideration the nature of the offences with which the accused is charged, upheld the request for bail.

Calleja was released from arrest on condition that he remain in Malta, not approach witnesses, signs a bail book every day and observes a curfew. He was ordered to pay a deposit of €2,000 and provide a €10,000 personal guarantee.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...