HSBC thought Luke Seguna payments to porn websites were a scam

The bank noted payments being made from his account to payment processors associated with pornographic websites

Former Marsaxlokk parish priest Fr. Luke Seguna had been contacted by his bank over his payments to pornographic websites, which the bank had thought were the result of him being scammed, a court has heard.

Fr.Seguna is currently the subject of criminal proceedings on charges which include money laundering and fraud, which he denies.

Prosecuting inspector Lianne Bonello from the anti-money laundering squad testified first this morning, giving her account of Seguna’s arrest.

Bonello explained how on 10 August, officers from the AML squad, cybercrime unit and Scene of Crime Officers had arrested Seguna at his residence in Marsaxlokk. arrested early in the afternoon. Officers from the Assets Recovery Bureau were also present, she said.

Seguna had handed over his laptop password and disabled the security features on his phone, which were then seized by the police.

Also seized were items of jewellery, watches and designer clothes, which were handed over to the Assets Recovery Bureau, together with cheque books documenting the purchases.

Fr. Seguna’s Land Rover, garage and the parish office had also been searched by the police.

Bonello said that she had been present for Seguna’s second statement to the police, during which he had exercised his right to silence. The priest was subsequently arraigned on 12 August.

Lawyer Alex Scerri Herrera, part of the priest’s defence team, cross-examined the inspector, asking whether an inquiry had also been launched.

The witness replied that the case had been based on police work. Scerri Herrera asked her why no inquiry had been held in this case, unlike other similar cases.

“I will not compare this case with another. I will not be cross-examined on anything that I did not testify on,” replied the inspector.

The next witness, Inspector Christopher Ellul, corrected some figures he had given in his previous testimony. Between 2015 and May 2022, the total income had been €487,511 and not €449, 373, he said.

Ellul also updated the amount transferred out from the parish church account to Seguna’s personal account, with the revised figure now standing at €15,821. The inspector explained that a total of €148,538.87 had been transferred to three payment processing websites which serve live pornography show from Seguna’s HSBC credit card, Revolut and Master Card.

The investigation into Seguna had started in March after police received a tip off about Fr. Seguna’s banking activity, a police constable told the court.

The priest’s declared income for the period 2016 to 2021 corresponded with the salary he received from the archdiocese; however, it was noted that his total income was €487,511.


Around €200,000 of this amount were deposits and around €130,000 were cheque deposits. The officer added that Seguna would write the dates on the cheques in Roman numerals, but this practice was also seen on cheques issued by a Mr. Attard and a Mr. Caruana, when writing cheques to Seguna. Some discrepancies were also noted in the signatures, he said.

The investigation established that Caruana had been diagnosed with dementia, the court was told.

During the sitting it also emerged that HSBC had sent for Seguna to inquiry as to whether he had been scammed, after the bank noted payments being made from his account to payment processors associated with pornographic websites. The officer was told that Seguna told the bank that he was aware of the transactions.

The constable, who had been present during Seguna’s first statement to the police, recalled the priest as claiming that he would directly ask donors whether they were donating to him in his personal capacity or to the church.

But when the police asked how much had been spent on charitable causes, Seguna was unable to reply. Similar answers were given when Seguna was asked to justify transfers from the parish church’s bank account into his personal account.

The parish priest had exercised his right to silence when faced by questions about the issues and discrepancies mentioned, he said, but had also told the police that he would need to check who had access to personal HSBC credit cards as well as his Revolut account.

Seguna had told the police that he had named one of his BOV accounts ‘Masses’, as it was the first thing that came to mind. He did not reply when it was pointed out that the account also listed transactions as ‘tombla’, ‘masses’ and ‘arbular.’

The defendant had blamed the pandemic and projects carried out by his predecessor for the decline in the parish’s income, the constable told the court, pointing out that the shortfall had already been registered in 2017 three years before the pandemic.

He did not reply when asked about gifts, the use of parish church money for humanitarian purposes, using his own money for charitable donations, or about whether he had received training from the Archdiocese about administration of parish funds.

Lawyer Matthew Xuereb, also assisting the defendant, cross-examined the witness, suggesting that Caruana had left his entire estate to the church and voluntary organisations in his will. The constable replied that he was not aware of Caruana’s will.

The officer said the police had been informed of the dates of Caruana’s dementia diagnosis.  The police were in possession of Caruana’s medical records, Inspector Bonello added.

A court appointed expert, Marco Ciliberti, exhibited his report in court, and informed the court that in the safe found at the parish church office there was decorative jewellery which is most probably used to adorn the statue of Our Lady of Pompeii during the feast.

The case will continue on 24 October at 11.30am.

Inspector Christopher Ellul and Lianne Bonello led the prosecution, assisted by lawyers Andrea Zammit and Ramon Bonello Sladden from the Office of the Attorney General.

Seguna was assisted by lawyers Matthew Xuereb and Alex Scerri Herrera.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Christina Sutton appeared as parte civile.

Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras presided over the court.