Homeless baker repaid elderly man's kindness by draining his bank account, court told

Baker remanded in custody after being accused of having withdrawn nearly €5,000 from a bank account belonging to the elderly man who had taken him in off the street

File photo
File photo

Joseph Sciberras, a 46-year-old baker from Zabbar has been remanded in custody after being accused of having withdrawn nearly €5,000 from a bank account belonging to the elderly man who had taken him in off the street.

Sciberras was arraigned this afternoon before Magistrate Elaine Mercieca Rizzo by Police Inspectors Darren Buhagiar and Kurt Farrugia, accused of several acts constituting the offence of aggravated theft from his octogenarian victim in January and February.

According to Inspector Darren Buhagiar, on 21 February, the Zabbar police station received a report from the elderly victim, who had contacted HSBC after being unable to withdraw cash from an ATM. The bank informed him that there had been many withdrawals, leaving only around €5 in his account, from a previous balance of just under €5,000.

The man insisted with the police that he had not made those withdrawals.

Inspector Buhagiar told the court that the man’s bank statement showed regular withdrawals from his HSBC account made at a BOV ATM in Zabbar, with over €100 being withdrawn on every occasion.

The victim told the police that he had never lost his card but said that he had been allowing a homeless man to stay in his house and suspected him. When the victim had challenged the homeless man about the unauthorised withdrawals, the defendant had replied that the victim had given him the debit card, said the inspector.

A plea of not guilty was entered on Sciberras’ behalf by his lawyer, Martin Farrugia, who was appointed by the court to represent the defendant as legal aid.

Farrugia requested bail for his client, but Inspector Buhagiar objected, saying that the man had no place of residence after he was kicked out of his mother’s house for stealing from his brother. He described Sciberras as having “every vice, including drugs, drinking, and gambling, and has been that way for the past 20 years.”

Inspector Kurt Farrugia added to the prosecution’s submissions on bail, pointing out that the accused “had taken advantage of the hospitality of a kind-hearted elderly man to take all of his money.” There was also a strong risk of the accused tampering with evidence, as he had told the police that he lived with a friend in Zabbar and worked in the town too.

The defence lawyer argued that “liberty was the rule and detention was the exception.” He also noted that Sciberras had specified a place of residence and described the comments about the man’s relationship with his mother and brother as “capricious.”

“The only good argument brought by the prosecution was that of the risk of tampering with evidence,” he said, but pointed out that the withdrawals had to have been made using a card in an ATM, which meant that all the relevant evidence was already preserved as the accused had no way of changing the bank’s records.

The court denied the bail request, after taking into consideration the gravity of the offences with which Sciberras was charged and the fact that the victim, whose age rendered him a vulnerable person at law, was yet to testify.