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Patrick Spiteri appeals extradition on €7.4 million fraud

Wanted man earns €21,000 a month for part-time financial advisory job • London court orders his extradition to Malta to face fraud and misappropriation charges

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
12 January 2016, 7:57am
Having a swim: Spiteri at the Surrey home of the mother of his partner Lorna Maltby in a photo he posted on an online dating profile, which enabled The Times to track him down and source his arrest. The couple's consultancy firm is Symphony Global
Having a swim: Spiteri at the Surrey home of the mother of his partner Lorna Maltby in a photo he posted on an online dating profile, which enabled The Times to track him down and source his arrest. The couple's consultancy firm is Symphony Global
The fate of disbarred lawyer Patrick Spiteri, wanted in Malta for criminal conduct related to a total of €7.4 million, hangs in the balance when a London court will decide this month on his appeal against his extradition.

In September 2015, the Westminster Magistrates Court ordered Spiteri’s extradition to Malta on eight separate requests from the judicial authorities over various allegations of fraud after the 51-year-old was arrested in a police swoop on his wife’s country estate.

The former tax lawyer – he advised the Fenech Adami administration on the introduction of VAT in 1995 and then consulted Labour a year later on the changeover to the infamous CET (Customs and Excise Tax) alternative – had been living permanently in the UK since January 2014 in the €4 million country estate set over 15 acres of land, evading the Maltese courts on eight separate cases linked to fraud and misappropriation charges.

 He formerly lived in Malta with his partner, Lorna Maltby, and their three children.

After his arrest by UK police in November, Spiteri was granted bail against a security deposit of £70,000 and a strict 11pm to 4am curfew.

The decision by the London court has however laid bare the extent of the charges against Spiteri, an ambitious lawyer who employed his wit and charm to gain the confidence of stars like double Oscar and Grammy Award winner Leslie Bricusse, who accuses Spiteri of conning him out of his investments.

Spiteri simply absconded from Malta after claiming he was unable to be present in court due to his alleged illness, which led him to go to London for treatment for the onset of multiple sclerosis. He had been witnessed walking in Valletta, aided by a walking stick.

He never returned to face charges of defrauding an Italian businessman of almost €5 million in the court of Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, who at the request of the prosecution had to postpone the case indefinitely. Adding to the prosecution’s troubles was that investigators were spending a lot of time chasing the money trail in tax havens away from Malta and the fact that Spiteri changed his lawyers several times, which meant the new defence team had to be given time to study the case. 

While doctors had certified he was not in a position to travel back, upon his arrest in 2015 – in a police sting prompted by investigations from The Times that located him using an online dating profile – Spiteri was said by arresting officers to be able to walk normally.

In its judgement, the Westminster Magistrates Court said that while Spiteri produced reports in relation to his health situation, “it appears he may be suffering from a form of chronic fatigue syndrome as well as stress and anxiety.”

Spiteri testified in five separate sittings over February and April 2015, providing a “clear and comprehensive recollection of events”.

He denied every allegation of criminal conduct laid against him and provided details of his defence and challenges to everyone of the serious allegations of dishonesty he faces.

Spiteri lived in Italy between 2007 and 2010 with his partner Maltby. Between April and July 2009, he was detained under house arrest over allegations of fraud. He then came to Malta where he lived here until 2014, before decamping to the Surrey home of Maltby’s mother – Elizabeth Spencer.

Spiteri told the court that he is working on a part-time basis as a financial advisor in the UK, earning some £16,000 a month (€21,700). His partner is also in part-time employment, earning approximately £2,000 a month.

In his decision, district judge John Zani accepted the requests for extradition on six of the eight cases, effectively meaning Spiteri had to be extradited to Malta to face the courts.

Zani said each of the EAWs alleged that Spiteri was the author of a very substantial fraud, and that his ties to the UK were limited. “Albeit there will be some unfortunate hardship caused to Mr Spiteri, his partner and their children in the event that extradition is ordered, that of itself is insufficient for the request to be declined.”

Zani said that Lorna Maltby’s mother would have to offer assistance, in the case of extradition, to ensure her young children can continue in their private education, which is costing the couple £2,500 a month.

 

Lawyers explain ‘culture of delay’

Although charged in at least eight cases, Spiteri has so far only ever been found guilty in one case, in which he forged a property contract complete with a notary’s signature to make it seem as though he had paid in full for a property on which he still owed some €100,000.

In explaining the delays surrounding his cases, Spiteri’s lawyers, Ian Refalo and Mark Refalo, told the London court that trials in Malta were rarely a continuous process. “Magistrates will have ‘slices’ from a number of causes on any particular day,” Mark Refalo said, meaning that magistrates often hear one or two witnesses from one case, postpone it to a later date, and continue with other cases in a similar fashion.

“There is a culture of delay in Maltese criminal proceedings that has been recognised by the Commission for the Holistic Reform of the Justice System,” Refalo said.

Prof. Ian Refalo confirmed that there was a tendency that courts of inquiry, which hold proceedings to compile evidence, proceed over a prolonged period of time with a few witnesses being heard at a time.

“Witnesses may be hard to trace, or may be reluctant to attend Court. Sometimes, one has to factor in ill health on the part of the magistrate, the prosecution officer or the accused. That means that an element of delay is inevitable and hence not unusual.”

Refalo added that every six weeks the acts of a case are remitted to the Attorney General for examination, who in turn has a month to direct the prosecution which witnesses to summon.

Master of Fraud

The allegations against Patrick Spiteri and subsequent police investigations paint a picture of systematic misappropriation of monies from unwitting clients.

Nicola Sarno, Sisal Shipping, Top Trading, Althea Ltd In 2005, Patrick Spiteri was accused of defrauding the Italians of $4.49 million after Nicola Sarno of Avellino, Italy, accused him of making fraudulent gains when Spiteri managed his finances.

Spiteri was said to have given Sarno advice on investing his money outside of the Maltese islands. Through Sisal and Top Trading, which in 1997 merged to create Althea Ltd, Sarno transferred the sum of $5.64 million between 1992 and 2003, for the purchase of a property in New Jersey and a motor yacht.

Spiteri used to manage all these transfers and transactions. After some time all these assets were sold, and in 1997 the sum of $1.15 million was transferred to Sarno. The problems arose when Spiteri did not transfer the rest of the money. It was discovered that the three companies were used to transfer unauthorised sums of money to third parties. Spiteri was said to have assumed responsibility for the missing €4.8 million. Proceedings started being heard in 2005 before Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, and all evidence by the prosecution has been tendered. The case is now in the defence stage.

Mario Abela and Josie Theuma Initially in 2000, Spiteri was asked to invest €142,000 in a Lehman Brothers fund with a return of 18%. Spiteri later informed them they had made a profit of 26% upon maturity of their investment; so he encouraged them to reinvest these funds in a Maltese company’s global depository receipt (GDRs), but the complainants never got their share certificate. Spiteri gave them €32,000 when he convinced them to sell their shares at a premium to non-Maltese nationals, but after that various attempts to recover their money were futile. In 2004 Spiteri was arraigned before Scerri Herrera and all evidence by the prosecution has been tendered. The case is now in the defence stage.

Luigi Riitano and Once-Upon-a-Time-Films In 2003, Riitano accused Spiteri, who was assisting him on VAT issues for a film he made in Malta, of misappropriating €53,000 in VAT refunds. The sum was withdrawn in two batches, and Spiteri refused to pay Riitano back. In 2004, Spiteri was arraigned before Scerri Herrera and all evidence by the prosecution has been tendered. The case is now in the defence stage.

Anne Smirthwaite and Emanuel Borg The couple, who were planning to retire in Malta, were suggested by Spiteri to invest their money in the Jons Trust, set up on their behalf by Spiteri. After investing £100,000 (€136,000) they received a letter from Portman Holdings informing that they were resigning their directorship of Jons Trust as no funds had been settled into the trust.

They also discovered that more money, a total of £260,000 (€350,000) had been taken out of their bank account than they wished, but only £2,600 was left in the Jons Trust account. In the subsequent police investigation, it transpired that Spiteri had convinced another client, Gaetano Borg, to lend some €230,000 to another client. The other client knew nothing of the alleged loan, and Borg, who is illiterate, signed a document allowing Spiteri to withdraw his money.

Stuart Creggy In 2004, Creggy’s lawyer Joseph Schembri reported Spiteri to the police, saying he had refused to pay back his client some €1.3 million he should have deposited for him. The funds were transferred from clients Sarasin Bank to Spiteri’s Lombard Bank Malta account from a foreign company by the name of K.E. Davis & Sons. Spiteri was arraigned in the court of Antonio Micallef Trigona, and the case is now in the defence stage.

Creggy, a former solicitor now in his 70s, was last year ordered to pay more than £760,000 (€1 million) compensation for approving an unauthorised transfer of funds. Relations between Creggy and restaurant-chain owners Jeffrey and Peter Barnett, for whom he acted for over 25 years, broke down after the transfer of more than £760,000 to Spiteri, from whom they never recovered any funds.

Leslie Bricusse The double Oscar winner (pictured) engaged Spiteri to invest £150,000 (€200,000) in 2001 but it transpired that the stocks allegedly bought by Spiteri had never been issued for sale, and that documents sent to Bricusse were false. In 2004, Spiteri was charged with aggravated misappropriation.

Guilio Gherardini In 2004, the Italian plastic surgeon was advised by Spiteri to draw up a contract with his employers – the National Centre of Cosmetic Surgery – to place his salary in his trust, Zimmermann International. Spiteri assured him that his taxes were being duly paid but it transpired that his money was not being forwarded to Zimmermann International. Spiteri was arraigned before Magistrate Micallef Trigona for non-payment of Gherardini’s taxes, and the case is now in the defence stage.

Peter Clarke, Patricia Clarke and Mario Somma In 2008, the Clarkes gave Spiteri €290,000 to invest in a capital-guaranteed fund using a trust but later stopped receiving interest. A police investigation revealed that the money was being transferred in an unauthorised manner to Jersey, the Channel Islands and the UK and to a trust belonging to Spiteri. Similarly, Somma gave Spiteri €515,000 to invest through a Guernsey trust fund. Spiteri was arraigned before Magistrate J. Demicoli, and the case is now in the defence stage.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.