Cospicua men charged with stealing €34,000 worth of items from parish church

The pair were also charged with damaging cultural property, voluntarily causing over €2,500 in damage to third party property and defacing the church’s titular painting.

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
7 September 2017, 2:22pm
Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception in Cospicua.
Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception in Cospicua.
Two Cospicua men have been charged with breaking into and stealing items from their local church.

Marflene Cricchiola, 30 and Gianluca Sultana, 19 appeared in court before magistrate Josette Sultana this morning, accused of  stealing artifacts and sacred objects from the Collegiate Church of the Immaculate Conception in Cospicua.

The pair were also charged with damaging cultural property, voluntarily causing over €2,500 in damage to third party property and defacing the church’s titular painting.

The break-in, in which gold and religious items estimated to be worth something in the region of €36,000 were stolen, had occurred during the night of 22 July this year. The thieves had stolen a brooch - valued at €20,000 - that had been attached to the titular painting of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception during the feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

A pyx, ciboria and chalices worth a total value of € 16,000 were also stolen.

MaltaToday is informed that the police had zeroed in on Chricchiola after they were told that he had stopped at the church weeks before the break-in, claiming to be looking for information to prepare for the baptism of his unborn child. His DNA is understood to have also been found at the scene.

Sultana, a technician and Chricchiola, who is unemployed, both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lawyer Franco Debono, who is defence counsel together with lawyers Marion Camilleri, Amadeus Cachia and Yanika Vidal, requested bail, pointing out that Sultana was a first time offender with clean police conduct and that he had scrupulously observed the conditions of his police bail for weeks after his arrest.  

“I find it ironic when police grant police bail and then come to court and object to the court granting bail...” Debono remarked.

The fact that the accused had not presented a difficulty when on police bail was an indicator of trustworthiness, he said.

Inspector Mercieca raised stronger objections to a similar request for bail made by Chricchiola. The latter was already facing separate charges of breaching previous bail conditions, said the police inspector.

“Police bail is an extension of arrest. The offence was committed whilst on bail, he breached his curfew and didn’t sign his bail book. He has previous convictions for breaching bail. This is a different scenario to the other accused.”

Responding, after it was pointed out that Chricciola’s girlfriend was pregnant, the Inspector replied that the fact that a person accused’s girlfriend was expecting a child “did not give him a blank cheque to be allowed out on bail.”

The court, having heard submissions from all concerned, granted Sultana bail against a deposit of €1,000 and a personal guarantee of €6,000, also binding him to a curfew and to stay away from area around the church in question. He must also sign the bail book three times a week.

But the court turned down Chricchiola’s request for bail on the grounds of the nature of the charges and because the accused did not satisfy the guarantees required at law, “in particular that of trustworthiness.”

Inspectors Joseph Mercieca, Saviour Baldacchino and Christabelle Chetcuti prosecuted.

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