Private chef charged with rape seven years after alleged assault, remanded in custody

A private chef has been charged with rape and other offences seven years after the alleged incident took place • Police struggled to track him down because his job involved travelling on yachts

A man has been remanded in custody after being charged with rape, seven years after the alleged assault took place.

The accused, a Kuwaiti-born private chef, who is not being named at the orders of the court, was arraigned before Magistrate Leonard Caruana on Friday.

Police Inspector Dorianne Tabone, who the court was told, had taken over the case only recently, charged the man with rape, illegal arrest, slightly injuring the woman, possession of cocaine not intended for personal use and supplying or selling cocaine.

After the alleged rape took place in 2016, she said, the man had proven difficult for the authorities to trace, not least as his job involved travelling on yachts. The police had filed several international requests and alerts about the man, who would however “never arrive in Malta.”
The investigation had a lucky break recently, after the police received information indicating that the man had been in Malta since last month. An arrest warrant was issued, leading to his arraignment, she said.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defence counsel, lawyers Frank Tabone, Jacob Magri and Legal Procurator Mark Sultana requested bail.

The prosecution objected to the request, with prosecutor Sean Gabriel Azzopardi from the Office of the Attorney General telling the court that the alleged victim had not yet testified in this case and that the accused knew where she lived.

In addition to this, the man posed a flight risk due to his ties abroad and had given the police a hard time to track him down, also by failing to turn up for several appointments with them.

But defence lawyer Frank Tabone submitted that the facts “were completely different to those described by the prosecution.”

The alleged incident had taken place in March 2016, he said. The woman filed a report which was investigated by the Vice squad. A magisterial inquiry had been carried out and had concluded in 2018. “At no point was the accused arrested or asked to give a statement by the police during this time,” said the lawyer, adding that the alleged victim had testified under oath during the inquiry, which meant that her account had already been preserved.

“For some reason, in the years between 2018 to 2023, the police had never arrested him. It emerged that this investigation had been left on a shelf until the present inspector took it over,” said the lawyer, disputing the assertion that his client had been on the wanted list.

During that time, the accused had himself filed several reports over various unrelated issued at police stations across the islands and had never been arrested, Tabone added. 

“He is also a party in an ongoing custody case and had been found guilty of a contravention in the meantime, so he was not impossible to trace,” said the lawyer, telling the court that the accused had travelled to and from Malta several times during this period and had never been stopped at the airport. 

“The police only sent for him in connection with this case two days ago, so we cannot punish the accused for this shortcoming on the part of the police.”

The accused had lived at the same address in Zurrieq since 2008, said the lawyer. “He is not trying to evade justice, he didn’t even know that he was being investigated for rape until two days ago.”

We are talking about an incident which allegedly happened 7 years ago, said the lawyer, asking what sort of evidence his client could possibly tamper with.

With regards to the drug-related charges, Tabone submitted that the only reason they had been made was “because, in her testimony before the inquiring magistrate, the alleged victim had claimed that he had given her cocaine.” No drugs had been found in the accused’s possession, stressed the lawyer.

The accused had strong ties to Malta and his only previous conviction was for withholding access in a child custody case.

Lawyer Jacob Magri underlined the fact that the inquiry had been concluded and that any evidence which could have been present had already been preserved there. “Everything militating against his release is already overcome,” argued the lawyer.

The accused chose to answer all the police’s questions during his interrogation, he added.

Legal procurator Mark Sultana: added that the accused, as a third party national, had a residence permit that was valid till December 2023. “This permit, in order for it to be approved, had to pass through the hands of the police. For Identity Malta to issue a permit, it had to conduct due diligence checks, including with the police. So if the prosecution is alleging that he gave them a hard time to trace, how did he do it?” 

The prosecuting police inspector replied that the man had never been found at his registered address. After this, international alerts had been issued. “If no hits were registered on the system, the person responsible must answer for this shortcoming. But the alerts are all there. Everything is in place.”

However, prosecutor Sean Gabriel Azzopardi, representing the Office of the Attorney General, informed the court that the alleged victim had not testified during the inquiry and that no experts had been appointed. “What she might have done is given some details to the examining doctor, Dr. Mario Scerri.”
“So she didn’t testify during the inquiry?” asked the court.  “No,” replied the prosecutor.

Even so, insisted Magri, the woman must have released a statement to the police. “If she decides to change any aspects of her account, the accused should not be penalised for it.”

Magistrate Leonard Caruana, having heard the parties submissions for and against bail, ruled that there was a real risk of tampering with evidence, in particular the alleged victim who is yet to testify. Additionally there was a risk of the accused absconding.

The man in the dock put his face in his hands in disbelief and wept as the court denied his request for bail.

The court upheld the prosecution’s request for a ban on the publication of the names of both the accused and the alleged victim, on the grounds of the nature of the charges.

A request for the issuing of a protection order in favour of the woman was also upheld by the court.

Lawyer Stephanie Caruana appeared on behalf of the victim, as parte civile.