Operation Dirty Oil suspect wants revision of freezing order limits

Gordon Debono, oil trader in fuel smuggling racket, says he cannot eke out living on maximum €14,000 annual funds while rest of his fortune stays under freezing order

Gordon Debono, pictured right, is one of the five arrested in connection to the investigation
Gordon Debono, pictured right, is one of the five arrested in connection to the investigation

Lawyers for Gordon Debono, the subject of criminal proceedings in which he is accused of fuel smuggling and money laundering, are demanding a change to legal limits on access to frozen funds.

In a judicial protest filed against the State Advocate, the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice this morning, Debono’s lawyers Roberto Montalto, Alfred Abela, Ishmael Psaila and Rene Darmanin, highlighted the fact that under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, subjects of freezing orders are allowed to request access to no more than €13,976.24 of the frozen funds every year.

The law states that this concession is aimed at “allowing [the accused] and his family a decent living.”

Operation Dirty Oil: Arrest in Lampedusa on fuel smuggling suspicions

But, the lawyers point out, this law had been introduced in 1994 and the amount a person struck by a freezing order can access has remained unchanged, aside from it being converted into euros.

While a person could expect to eke out a decent living on Lm6,000 (€13,976.24) in 1994, this was no longer the case, 28 years later, with cost of living being what it is, argued the lawyers.

Neither did the law distinguish between subjects of freezing orders who were sole breadwinners or who had families to maintain. Neither did it take into account expenses relating to medical conditions or the costs of legal representation to safeguard a fair trial.

The judicial protest goes on to cite the Wage Increase National Standard Order, saying that this showed that the cost of basic everyday necessities had gone up by €4,707 since 1994.

The small amount of funds which the law currently allows persons subjected to freezing orders to utilise, constituted a breach of Debono’s rights, argued his lawyers, asking that this anomaly be addressed by legal amendments.