Sufficient evidence to indict Marsaxlokk parish priest Fr Luke Seguna

A court has decreed that there is enough evidence to indict Fr Luke Seguna, the Marsaxlokk parish priest accused of misappropriation, fraud, forgery and money laundering

Fr Luke Seguna's personal wealth includes five motorcycles, a Land Rover and a Fiat 500 (Photo: Facebook)
Fr Luke Seguna's personal wealth includes five motorcycles, a Land Rover and a Fiat 500 (Photo: Facebook)

The magistrate compiling evidence against Marsaxlokk parish priest Fr Luke Seguna has decreed that there are sufficient grounds for his indictment.

The decree was given by Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras at the end of today’s sitting in the compilation of evidence against Seguna, who is facing charges of misappropriation, money laundering, fraud and forgery.  

Police investigations discovered that he had hundreds of thousands of euros deposited in various bank accounts and a collection of five motorbikes and two cars, despite a relatively meagre income as a clergyman.  

He is denying charges of misappropriating some €500,000 given to him by 150 parishioners over the pan of 10 years. The priest is reported as having spent some of the money he had received from parishioners, on porn websites.

A number of witnesses testified today: three men from whom the priest had bought motor vehicles; a man who sold him a garage; and the notary who published the contract relating to that sale.

Two parishioners who donated money to the parish were also summoned. 

Dylan Gerada told the court that he had sold a Land Rover Defender 110 to Seguna, whom he recognised in the courtroom. He exhibited the invoice for €28,990.  

The next witness, Sergio Polidano, who also identified the accused in court, testified to having sold his third-hand Honda C70 motorcycle to Seguna for €700 in cash. 

Morgan Gonzalez testified to having advertised his Fiat 500 on Facebook and subsequently selling it to Seguna. Gonzalez said he had bought the car for €4,000 in June 2021 and that he had sold it to the priest in February 2022 for €5,000.  

Neil Anthony Borg took the stand next, telling the court that he had sold the priest a garage located opposite the church in Paola.

Notary says no red flags found

Notary Tony Abela was summoned to testify about the sale of the Paola garage. He told the court that his son, also a notary, had published the contract of sale, after the firm had engaged a specialist due diligence provider to carry out checks on the parties. No red flags were found, he said. 

Abela praised the defendant for his contribution to the Rabat parish, where Seguna had served as vice-parish priest for six years, thanking him for his assistance to the town’s poor. 

Maria Carmela Pulis, a parishioner from Marsaxlokk, also testified on Wednesday. Before she testified, the woman confirmed that nobody had spoken to her about the case before her appearance in court today, in response to a question asked by AG prosecutor Ramon Bonnett Sladden. 

She said she had donated to a fund for the upkeep of the Marsaxlokk parish church and had issued a cheque for €120 addressed to “Parroċċa Marsaxlokk” which she had handed to the parish priest. 

Other cheques, for €30 and €38 were also exhibited. The witness said she had sponsored a stained-glass window in 2020. “I like to give donations to the Church,” she said, explaining that she would regularly donate money for flowers of the Church’s upkeep. 

The witness appeared perplexed when Bonnett Sladden asked her “how certain are you that the money was used for these purposes?” The defence objected to the “ridiculous” questions being asked. “You’re driving this woman crazy over some €30 cheques,” protested lawyer Matthew Xuereb.

A question of trust

James Zerafa testified that he had transferred €300 to Seguna over three years using Revolut. 

Asked by the prosecution whether he was told how the money was spent, the witness replied: “I gave it to Fr Seguna to administrate as he saw fit. I trust him. Every donation I give is on the basis of trust. In the eventuality that this situation changes, I reserve the right not to donate again.” 

Another parishioner, Rosemarie Mercieca, testified that she had sent Seguna money on Revolut as a token of her appreciation for the priest’s work. 

After all of today’s witnesses had finished testifying, Herrera informed the court that the defence was reversing its previous position, where it had said it would not contest prima facie, calling out the prosecution for its recently adopted practise of pressing money laundering charges in every case involving money. 

“Our client is facing four charges. Misappropriation, money laundering, fraud and forgery. There is not a shred of evidence supporting the money laundering charge. You need a particular scenario to have money laundering: the provenance of the money has to be illicit and you must be trying to hide the source of funds. In this case, they are donations to the parish and are completely licit and the cheques were deposited in a bank. We are coming to a ridiculous position where money laundering charges are being added to every crime. 

“Neither is there evidence of fraud. There is no element of trickery. He is not pretending to be a priest, he is not asking for these donations. There is no case to answer for with regards fraud. 

“Misappropriation? There is no evidence that the cheques deposited in his name were misused. There is no evidence that he transferred money from parish or church bank accounts into his personal account.  

“Forgery is also a non-starter, the signatory of the cheque in question is deceased. The defendant actually celebrated her funeral,” said the lawyer, saying that the accusation had been made after her death.

Prosecution accuses defence of intellectual dishonesty

In his counter-arguments, prosecutor Andrea Zammit from the office of the Attorney General insisted that there was a case to answer for and that the court “had every opportunity to see this.”

Zammit said that in the last sitting, which was eight hours long, the AG had already exhibited sufficient evidence but the defence had “vexatiously” interrupted the police inspector’s testimony.

Bank representatives had also testified about the cheques, he said. 

With respect to the fraud charge, Zammit explained that there is an element of mise en scene. “These people do not even understand that they have been defrauded,” he said. “The main victim is the Maltese archdiocese, and there are other victims, some of whom have testified already.”

Zammit accused the defence of “intellectual dishonesty.” 

The court, after hearing the submissions and the evidence, ruled that there is a case to answer for and that it had seen sufficient evidence to justify indicting Seguna. 

The case will continue in October.