Marsaxlokk priest had €300,000 discrepancy between bank balance and declared income

Tax compliance representatives tell court of €300,000 discrepancy in Fr Luke Seguna's declared income and bank balance

Fr Luke Seguna being escorted to court for his arraignment (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Fr Luke Seguna being escorted to court for his arraignment (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A representative from the Tax Compliance Unit has told a court that there was a €300,000 discrepancy between the declared income of suspended Marsaxlokk parish priest Fr. Luke Seguna and the contents of his bank accounts.

Several witnesses testified before Magistrate Rachel Montebello on Monday, amongst them a representative from the Tax Compliance Unit. 

Seguna, who is charged with misappropriation, money laundering, fraud and forgery, had been placed on administrative leave by the Curia pending criminal investigations into the provenance of hundreds of thousands of euros deposited in various bank accounts and his collection of five motorbikes and two cars, despite his relatively meagre income as a clergyman. 

He denies having misappropriated some €500,000 donated by 150 parishioners over a span of ten years. Seguna is also believed to have spent some of the money he had received from parishioners, on internet porn.

In court on Monday, the Tax Compliance Unit witness said that the case had been referred to the unit by the police’s Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID).

Asked by lawyer Alex Scerri Herrera, who is assisting the defendant, as to what deposits and outlays had been identified to the unit, he said he could not divulge that information.

Cross-examined by lawyer Stefano Filletti, appearing for the Archdiocese of Malta as parte civile, it emerged that the unit had identified a €300,000 discrepancy between Seguna’s declared income and his bank deposits, which amounted to €460,000, all of which had been deposited in his personal accounts.

Asked whether the balances had increased or decreased over time, the witness replied that they had remained more or less the same.

This indicated there was outlay, said Filletti. “What about income?”

The sources of income were, for the main part, parish-related: amongst them a monthly €10 deposit scheme, contributions for a devotional niche and a tombola, said the witness.

This means that the parish funds were deposited in his personal accounts, the lawyer pointed out.

Asked where the money went, the witness said that some of the transactions were parish-related, but most of them were personal, in particular spent at restaurants and supermarkets.

Scerri Herrera argued that the purchases from supermarkets could not be itemised and accurately classified.

Filletti replied that while this was true, it was also a fact that the points of sale at which the transactions were registered were mostly restaurants and supermarkets.

The witness explained that the unit could not find evidence of commercial trading activity, and so the investigation fell outside their remit as tax was not applicable. 

The case continues.

Prosecutors Ramon Bonett Sladden and Andrea Zammit prosecuted representing the Office of the Attorney General

Lawyers Jose Herrera, Alex Scerri Herrera and Matthew Xuereb are defence counsel.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Christina Sutton are representing the Malta Archdiocese.