Mario Degiorgio released on bail after court finds grounds for his indictment

Mario Degiorgio ordered to sign a bail book every day, surrender his driving and boating licences and observe a curfew

File photo
File photo

Mario Degiorgio, brother to George and Alfred Degiorgio, who are awaiting trial for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, was released on bail after a court ruled it had seen sufficient prima facie evidence for the man to stand trial on money laundering and extortion charges.

The case against the 65-year-old Marsa resident continued before Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on Wednesday morning with the accused’s sister testifying.

Lawyer Mario Mifsud, assisting the woman, who is not being named by order of the court, asked that she be allowed not to testify. The request was objected to by the prosecution.

The court cautioned the witness about the legal implications of testifying, telling her that if she genuinely felt that she had done something wrong and would incriminate herself by testifying, she was to exercise her right to silence and not respond.

The woman confirmed that she had visited her siblings in prison, to see to their needs and had deposited money in their prison accounts a number of times.

Melvin Theuma, the self-confessed middleman in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had received a Presidential pardon in return for his testimony in the murder cases, also testified, assisted by lawyer Kathleen Grima. Theuma was questioned by the court about a phone call between him and the accused.

He replied that he had attempted to pass on a message not to deliver money to a third party, but said that he didn’t know where the third party lived.

“The last time [I testified] I forgot to mention the €5,000 demanded by Mario Degiorgio for [George Degiorgio’s partner] Anca since she was on bail, so she could pay the court guarantee to go abroad. I never got my money back. This happened more than one time. I don’t remember home many times but many times,” Theuma said. 

Anca Adelina Pop has been on bail since 2018 after she was accused, together with the Degiorgios, of money laundering.

“I gave [him €5,000] some four times. And he used to tell me that the guarantee was for her to go abroad, but I did not get my money back, and then I would be told that she used the money on other things.”

Asked why he continued to fork out money if he was aware that such court deposits were refunded after returning from abroad, Theuma said he was but had paid up anyway “because I had my back to the wall.”

Daren Debono, who confirmed in court that he was known as it-Topo, told the magistrate that he recognised Mario Degiorgio from Marsa, but denied ever speaking to him or having been contacted by Theuma on matters regarding the accused.

The next person to be called to the witness stand was Joseph Brincat, known as is-Sukku, who told the court that he lived next door to Mario Degiorgio. “We grew up together, but then we lost contact a bit.” 

Prosecutor Francesco Refalo asked the witness about Theuma. “I know him, also from the news, but I know him from Marsa.” Brincat said. Brincat explained that he owns a bar at an amateur football club, where Mario Degiorgio would go to collect money for his brothers. 

“Lolly Pace used to come to the bar, bringing money for Mario’s brothers. Pace did not know Mario, but I told him I did. So, I used to pass the money to Mario Degiorgio, and he would bring a receipt. The money would to be for George and Alfred Degiorgio, and sometimes also for Vince [Muscat]. It would be €200 or €300 weekly, for a period of some three months, I do not recall exactly.”

Answering a question from lawyer William Cuschieri, Brincat said he had no idea when the money had been given to him.

Tarxien resident Lawrence Pace, known as il-Lolly, was next to testify.

He said he did not recognise the accused in court.

 “There was Melvin Theuma, we had met at Rafel’s shop and he had asked me how he could send €300 to Freddie, George and Vince,” Pace said, later adding that he knew the men from the White Stars amateur football club in Marsa. “I gave them to Joey Brincat and he would give them to the family,” Pace testified, going on to say that he had only done so three times.

Several members of Vincent Muscat’s family also testified to having deposited small sums of money in his prison bank account.

A BOV representative also testified, confirming that Mario Degiorgio had held a savings account at the bank since 2002. Records of transactions, bank statements and account opening forms were exhibited.

A representative for HSBC testified next, telling the court that the accused had not banked with them since 2017. His five accounts had been closed between 2005 and 2016. The last account always had a balance of 14c, added the witness.

After hearing the final witness - a representative from the public registry who exhibited documents relating to Mario Degiorgio - the court decreed that it had seen sufficient prima facie evidence for a bill of indictment to be issued.

Degiorgio was granted bail in view of the fact that all civilian witnesses had now testified.  He was ordered to sign a bail book every day, surrender his driving and boating licences and observe a curfew. Bail was secured by a deposit of €15,000 and €25,000 personal guarantee.

“If you breach any of these conditions, you will be giving the Government of Malta €40,000,” warned the magistrate, before adjourning the case to October.

Police inspectors Leeanne Bonello and Chris Ellul prosecuted, assisted by prosecutors

Marthese Grech and Francesco Refalo from the Office of the Attorney General.

Lawyers William Cuschieri and Lennox Vella were defence counsel.