Auditor linked to Operation Dirty Oil fuel smuggling ring denied bail

Auditor Chris Baldacchino is believed to be the 'brains' of the money-laundering scheme set up to filter illicit funds through Malta's commercial system

Chris Baldacchino, pictured left, seen being escorted by police into the Law Courts
Chris Baldacchino, pictured left, seen being escorted by police into the Law Courts

Auditor Chris Baldacchino was denied bail after being arraigned over money-laundering charges linked to the Operation Dirty Oil fuel smuggling ring controlled by former footballer Darren Debono.

Baldacchino pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges claiming him to be the mastermind of the laundering scheme facilitating an organised criminal group involving a Libyan fuel smuggling ring.

Presiding over the hearing, Magistrate Ian Farrugia denied bail after having taken into account the severity of the charges and the number of witnesses that are yet to testify. 

The magistrate further upheld a freezing order request put forward by lawyer Antoine Agius Bonnici, appearing for the State Prosecutor, who argued that the case involves large amounts of money derived from criminal activity. The accused and his family will have access to €13,000 for daily needs.

Baldacchino's accountancy firm 'Chris Baldacchino & Associates' was fined €59,000 for lax anti-money laundering controls last year, that according to the FIAU, could have possibly led the firm to be used and abused by money-launderers to bypass checks that would otherwise have been carried out.

Clients to the firm include ADJ Trading, which was implicated in the €30 million smuggling ring controlled by Debono, a Libyan smuggler kingpin and an Egyptian national.

Debono was arrested and arraigned last year in a major anti-money laundering sting codenamed Operation Proteus, which saw 10 people arrest in connection with the investigation.