Police inspector testifies that Zenith directors made no personal gain despite money laundering charges

The lawyer of Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon warn that however who decided to charge them with money laundering in their personal capacity 'will bear the consequences'

Former Zenith Finance owner Matthew Pace, when arraigned on money laundering charges
Former Zenith Finance owner Matthew Pace, when arraigned on money laundering charges

The person who, last March, took the decision to charge two former directors of Zenith Finance with money laundering in their personal capacity, despite being aware that they had made no personal gains “will bear the consequences”, the directors’ lawyer has warned, after hearing shocking testimony to this effect from a police inspector.

Inspector Ian Camilleri from the police’s Anti-Money Laundering Squad testified earlier today as the case against Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon continued before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech.

The inspector’s testimony had been requested in separate applications filed by both accused, requesting variations of the freezing orders imposed upon them.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Edward Gatt, the officer said that the investigations showed that no personal gains from any underlying criminal activity had been made by either of the two co-accused.

The statement was met with disbelief from the presiding magistrate. “So let me make this clear. In their personal capacity, there were no illicit gains or profits?” she asked.

“Nothing,” replied the inspector, going on to say that “there were no funds accrued to them in their personal capacity.”

The reply raised more questions for the defence.

“Did you know about this from day one?” asked Gatt. “Yes,” the inspector replied.

“So why did you insist on a freezing order against both accused in their personal capacity?” Gatt asked, whilst allowing for the fact that charges would have been drafted in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General.

The inspector explained that his role was tracing money movements and that he had not personally dealt with the freezing order.

That decision was taken by someone else; he confirmed when pressed on the matter by Gatt.

When asked to name the person who had taken that decision, the witness answered that a “nucleus of persons” had been involved in the investigation and resulting charges. Some of them no longer worked at the Attorney General’s Office, he added.

“Let me make this very clear. It could be that someone must eventually shoulder personal responsibility. My clients have gone bankrupt,” Gatt insisted, asking why the accused had been charged in their personal capacity if it had been known from the start that they had made no unlawful personal gains.

“At the time, that was the direction. To charge them personally,” came back the reply.

“Thanks for that reply and for your honesty. Now whoever took that decision will bear the consequences,” Gatt told the court, as both accused wept tears of relief.

“I’ve always said from arraignment stage that in these cases, the courts are not instruments of fear, but rather they are the life jackets and safety valves of these people,” Gatt said.

“Today, we know that these persons were charged ‘under direction.’ I will make sure to seek out whoever gave that direction. I want to bring him to light and make him pay,” declared the lawyer, arguing that the Office of the AG seemed intent on bringing misery to people simply because they were “friends of Keith Schembri, Robert or Alfio.”

The criminal proceedings and associated freezing order over all the assets of the accused had effectively destroyed “their business, their families and their lives,” Gatt told the magistrate.

Magistrate Frendo Dimech thanked the inspector for his honesty and informed the parties that a decision would be delivered without delay.

The case continues in March.

AG lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Sean Scerri de Caro assisted the prosecution.

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Vassallo are defence counsel.