Inmate's €10,000 in cash went missing from prison, court told

Just under €10,000 in cash belonging to a man held in custody disappeared from the prison records office   

Mystery still surrounds the disappearance whilst in custody of just under €10,000 in cash from the belongings of a man, whilst he was being held in custody on charges of tax evasion and travelling with too much undeclared cash.

Ali Muuse Igaale, from Somalia, who had been charged with transporting €160,000 in cash out of the country on August 23, and tax evasion, was back in the dock this morning as the case against him continued before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech.

A police officer who searched the accused as he entered the police lockup testified this morning. He told the court that the majority of the cash had been found in the accused’s suitcase. During a search on the accused’s person, the police also found a brown envelope with cash, some €10,000. “I saw a brown envelope, open, with the money in it,” he said.

The accused was taken to the lockup.

The next day when he was due to be taken from the lockup to court, he was tested for COVID-19 and found to be positive. He was still in the prison garage at that time. “He still had the envelope in his coat jacket,” said the witness, as he had been searched upon his entering prison.

The magistrate asked whether it was possible that the accused left the envelope, containing the cash, in the car, but the witness said that the vehicle had been searched and it was not found.

Then, on 17 September, police officers went to the prison records office went to retrieve the €10,000 but were told that the facility had no record of them, although Igaale had mentioned them.

The accused said he had passed on the money to a prison officer he identified by number whilst at prison, and had recognised the officer when the police had showed him a picture.

A search of the man’s belongings did not turn up the cash, and an envelope containing a few notes of foreign denomination. A subsequent search of Igaale’s Marsascala residence was also unfruitful.
Police had also counted the cash he kept at his shop in Hamrun and found that it amounted to significantly less than the missing €10,000.

Searches of Igaale’s cell and cellmate’s belongings also turned out negative. A police report was then filed.

Lawyer Franco Debono asked the officer, who had escorted Igaale to prison, whether he had seen the money inside the facility. The officer said he had. “No further questions, your honour,” said the lawyer.

Lawyer Karl Muscat objected to the defendant’s latest request for bail, citing the man’s lack of ties to Malta as a concern for the prosecution.

Debono countered that Igaale had been granted bail last week on the separate tax evasion case against him. “There is no reason to contest bail,” submitted the lawyer, "he's been in Malta for 9 years." The defence said that they would be contesting the merits of the case and not any decree of prima facie.