Confectioners charged with money laundering over alleged cheque-cashing service

Couple who offered to cash cheques for their clients against payment released on bail

A couple have been charged with money laundering offences after allegedly offering to cash cheques for clients, against payment, at their confectionary.

44-year-old Marsa resident Alan Harmsworth and his wife Josephine, 41, were arraigned under arrest before magistrate Ian Farrugia accused of operating as an unlicensed financial institution or bank in breach of financial services and banking law and also with committing money laundering.

Five police inspectors: Gary Cauchi, Oriana Spiteri, Claire Borg, Keith Mallan and Danilo Francalanza, charged the couple with the offences.

Alan Harmsworth alone was also charged with failing to store a firearm in an unloaded state, separate from its ammunition.

The couple, assisted by lawyers Joe Giglio and Roberta Bonello, pleaded not guilty.

Inspector Spiteri told the court that the man would cash cheques for the bearer and charge €3- €16 for this service.

Giglio asked whether the cheques were from the time when cheques were worded “pay or order.” This is how it was in 2015, he said. Some of the cheques dated back to 2015, the inspector confirmed.

The defence requested bail.

The prosecution objected to the couple’s release as there were potential civilian witnesses who had not testified. It declared that these witnesses were not able to be identified to date as many were non-Europeans without a fixed address.

Giglio pointed out that these investigations had been underway for a long time. The couple had been spoken to by the police many times, and had never approached any witnesses. “The evidence is largely documentary,” he said. “The accused had explained what she had done and cooperated fully with the investigation. The disagreement is over whether a crime has been committed. The issue is academic,” he said.

The couple worked from morning to night, Monday to Sunday, Giglio added. “They work very hard. If the police are saying that one of the accused charged money for these cheques, this is yet to be seen.”

Magistrate Farrugia released the couple on bail. He warned them not to communicate with any of their alleged cheque-cashing clients. “The case is what it is. Don’t complicate it further,” he told the Harmsworths.

The couple were released on bail against a €3,000 deposit and a personal guarantee of €7,000 each. They were also ordered to sign a bail book twice a week. A freezing order was also issued over their assets.

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