Accounts executive 'embezzled €110,000 from employer after falling victim to romance fraud'

An accounts executive accused of defrauding her employer out of €110,000 through online romance fraudsters indicted based on sufficient evidence presented in court

A court has decreed there is sufficient evidence to warrant the indictment of an accounts executive accused of defrauding her employer out of €110,000, after having fallen prey to online romance fraudsters.

Police Inspector Christian Abela from the Financial Crimes Investigation Department testified before magistrate Rachel Montebello on Thursday as the case against the woman continued.

The inspector explained how a police report had been filed by a company shareholder in March 2022. The shareholder had been contacted by Bank of Valletta about suspicious transfers from company bank accounts into the account of one of its employees.

The company’s internal system had indicated that these were payments being made to suppliers and a trail of false invoices had also been created. Several vendor bills had been falsified to give this impression.

But bank records told a different story, showing that the funds had been transferred to the defendant’s account, after which the money was transferred again to other accounts in Nigeria, Ukraine and China. 

The total amount embezzled was some €110,000, he said.

Inspector Abela told the court that the day after the report had been filed, the company’s owners informed the police that the woman had admitted to making the transactions, explaining that she had been threatened by unknown persons who she met online.

The woman was called in for questioning on more than one occasion, but had exercised her right to silence every time.

The police had asked BOV for information about the foreign accounts.

Prosecutor Etienne Savona asked the inspector about the motivation behind the transactions and where he had obtained the information from. “The complainants, because the defendant never answered any questions,” replied Abela.

In a previous sitting, the owner of the company had testified to having spoken to the defendant, who had the highest level of access and trust, being the company’s accounts executive. She had confessed to having been scammed, he said, adding that she had later also opened up about it to other employees, who disclosed this when questioned by the company directors.

The owner of the company took the witness stand again today, exhibiting bank statements relating to company accounts and the bank account records that had been handed over to him by the defendant herself. He also exhibited copies of the invoices that he said had been fabricated by the defendant to disguise the transactions from the company’s accountant.

The transfers were made to appear to have been made out to the company’s usual suppliers, he said.

A BOV representative provided the court with copies of bank statements for the relevant accounts.

At the end of the sitting, the court decreed that there was sufficient prima facie evidence for the woman to be placed under indictment.

Lawyer Rene Darmanin appeared for the defendant, while lawyer Annemarie Cutajar represented the defrauded company as parte civile