Man who ran insurance fraud racket by crashing cars gets three years’ jail

Over five years, all of Malta’s insurance companies were targeted in insurance fraud racket

The court of Criminal Appeal confirmed a jail sentence for a man who ran an insurance fraud racket between 2009 and 2013, which intentionally crashed cars for insurance money.

In 2018, Josef Grech, now 45, was found guilty on his own admission of defrauding the Untours, United, GasanMamo, Citadel, Atlas, Elmo, Allcare, and Thomas Smith insurance agencies out of over €5,000 each, and of filing false police reports.

He was found guilty of destroying his own property to claim insurance, breaching a condition of a suspended sentence and relapsing. Grech was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Some 22 people were originally charged when the police unravelled the scam in 2016. It is understood that the insurance firms found that some individuals had filed accident claims on several vehicles they owned. People were also agreeing to be involved in “traffic accidents” and would then file separate claims with their own insurance agencies.

Grech’s lawyers, Arthur Azzopardi and Alfred Abela, argued in the appeal that the punishment was excessive and should be reduced. The accused had pleaded guilty at an early stage, cooperated with the police and accepted to compensate the victims for the damages they suffered as a result of his criminal actions.

They submitted that the court of first instance had wrongly treated him as a mastermind, whereas in fact he was simply an accomplice. He denied that he was the brains behind the scam and said that he was being made a “sacrificial lamb” for other people’s crimes.

But the court of criminal appeal took into account that the appellant had been convicted of no less than 21 charges, primarily fraud, when the appellant and his accomplices created a mise en scene to defraud insurance companies by creating street accidents and car collisions.

The court noted that given the number and nature of the charges against the man, his three-and-a-half-year sentence was close to the minimum which could be imposed.

Neither was it the case that a non-custodial sentence could be handed down, said the court.

Grech had systematically and repeatedly, over the period between 2009 and 2013, created a danger to road users by staging crashes and claiming insurance.

The Court of Criminal Appeal had its hands tied, it said, not only because the court of first instance had used its discretion justly and wisely in awarding punishment, but also in view of the report of the man’s probation officer who said that in the particular circumstances of this case, only a custodial sentence would protect the interests of both appellant and his victims.

A sentence in the community would not reflect the gravity and value of the crimes he committed, said the court, dismissing the appeal and confirming his original sentence.

Lawyer Jason Grima appeared for the Malta Insurance Association, parte civile in the case.

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