COVID victim’s family accuse former Labour MP of eleventh-hour inheritance irregularity

Relatives of a COVID-19 victim who died accuse doctor Jan Chircop, and notary Joe Cilia, of taking advantage after a change in will which left the victim’s inheritance to the doctor

Doctor Jan Chircop, and former Labour MP Joe Cilia
Doctor Jan Chircop, and former Labour MP Joe Cilia

Updated at 5:30 pm with Jan Chircop reaction  

Relatives of a COVID-19 victim have accused his doctor and a notary of taking advantage of their brother, after an eleventh-hour change to his will in which he left his entire inheritance to the doctor.

Sisters Alberta and Jane Mangion filed a judicial protest against Dr Jan Chircop, son of the late Labour MP Karl Chircop, who they say is claiming he is the universal heir of their brother, as well as against notary Joseph Cilia, a former Labour MP, who they claim committed irregularities in the publication of the will they were contesting.

Both Chircop and Cilia have denied the allegations and released statements on the claims.

69-year-old Mario Mangion, the plaintiffs’ brother, died on 5 February, days after he contracted COVID-19. The following day, and just one hour after Mangion’s burial, Chircop had informed them that he was their brother’s sole heir, handing them a copy of what he claims was Mangion’s last will and testament, which had been issued before notary Cilia.

In the judicial protest, signed by lawyers Ruth Scott and Frank Cassar, the sisters said Chircop had gone to their brother’s house in Gudja, on the same day as his burial, from where he helped himself to important documents, bank details, internet banking details, jewellery, a shotgun and cash – including cash belonging to them which Mangion had been keeping as a mandatary.

They also claimed that two weeks had not yet passed since the man’s demise, when Chircop had registered the deceased’s address on his identity card, despite never having resided there and before their brother’s death certificate had been issued. They said no testamentary searches had been carried out to see which was the last will their brother had made and to ascertain who were the rightful heirs.

According to the will Chircop claimed was Mangion’s final one, made on 7 October last year, Mangion had stipulated that he is to be buried with his parents at a Gudja cemetery. Instead, he was buried in another grave owned by his family. The sisters said that since this express wish had not been carried out, Chircop had automatically lost any right to be his universal heir.

The impugned will oddly states that “for all effects at law the testator is declaring that the above-mentioned Jan Chircop has been working the testator’s fields together with him for more than the past ten years.” It goes on to then say that Chircop had been taking care of the testator for the past 10 years both financially as well as by working in his free time “senza interessi”.

Other testamentary dispositions give Chircop the right to take back a golden chalice, once belonging to Pope Benedict XVI, from the Gudja church and dispose of them as he wishes.

The Mangion sisters gave Chircop and Cilia 24 hours from the receipt of the judicial protest to return all their brother’s belongings and to immediately stop acting as their brother’s universal heir.

Lawyers Ruth Scott and Frank Cassar signed the judicial protest.

Jan Chircop reaction  

Reacting to the judicial protest, Jan Chircop claimed the siblings were unaware of Mario Mangion’s wishes following his death, insisting he is the rightful heir to Mangion. “It is a real pity, his sisters lacked respect towards Mario’s wishes. On a more sombre note, these people did not even let me grieve the loss of my second father in peace,” he said.

“I had to let them know I was the prospective heir. In line with Mario’s wishes, I handed over the money that was kept in safe keeping. Please note, I also handed them extra money I found which not in the safe. This was not meant to be given the sisters. I did so anyways,” he said.

Chircop said Mario Mangion owned three tombs, and it was his sisters who decided where Mario should be buried. “In light of the fact that the tomb is unable to be re-opened within 10 years according to regulations, since he died from Covid, he was buried in an alternative tomb,” he said.

“I took care of all funeral expenses in full. His wish to be buried with his parents was, a wish and not a condition. I also told them I was doing so beforehand, with no expenses spared.” 

Notary Joe Cilia told MaltaToday that the allegation he had released a copy of the will in question unlawfully, was completely unfounded.

Cilia said he released the copy of the will to the testator himself on the same day in which the will was made. “This was done on the request of the testator, and in line with the right of the testator to request such a copy. Naturally, it is the testator's exclusive prerogative what to do with such a copy, and Dr Cilia is not aware of and cannot be held responsible for what Mr Mangion did with such a copy, and to whom the same Mr Mangion may have provided such a copy,” his lawyer Mark Simiana said.

The will in question was made on the 7 October, 2020 at Cilia's office in Paola. Mangion died on the 5 February, 2021. “The reference to 11th hour changes to the will is incomprehensible,” Simiana said.