Scammed Nepalese cleaner cleared of making false address declaration

Nepalese woman not guilty of using a falsified lease agreement to apply for residency, as court rules she had no criminal intent when she signed documents with incorrect information

Court (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Court (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A court has declared a Nepalese woman not guilty of using a falsified lease agreement to apply for residency, ruling that she had no criminal intent when she signed documents with incorrect information as she understood neither English nor Maltese.

Puspa Maya Tamang, 38, who works as a cleaner, had been arrested in July and charged with making a false declaration to a public authority and making use of a forged document.  Tamang had been detained after a spot check carried out at her registered address revealed that she did not reside there. 

The police had been called in after receiving a phone call from the Head of Compliance at Identity Malta, who requested their assistance because Tamang had presented a false declaration to the agency when applying for a residence permit.

The lease agreement that Tamang had submitted with the application was forged, inspector Shamus Woods had told the court, adding that when the police had spoken to the landlady of the property in question, she had said that she did not know the defendant.

When testifying, the landlady told the court that she had never seen Tamang before, much less entered into a lease contract with her. She told the court that she found out that the defendant had called a certain Sachan  - the person who had given Tamang the contract, who in turn called up the agent, who then informed Tamang that she had been scammed and given a fake contract. 

The witness told the court that Tamang told her that she had paid Sachan for the rental agreement, which Sachan had later admitted to the landlady to be false. She had sent all the information she had to the police, including screenshots of her conversations with Sachan, she said, explaining that she had continued to press him for answers.

The signature on the contract was not hers, although a copy of her ID card was attached to it, she said. 

In her judgement acquitting the defendant, Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace observed that Tamang was a third country national who did not speak English nor Maltese. She had visited Identity Malta’s offices to report that she had not received her identity card and this had triggered an investigation. After checking her records, the landlady informed Identity Malta that Tamang was not a tenant of hers. Tamang went to Identity Malta in June to update her records with a new address and present another rental contract.

The court noted that in the landlady’s testimony, she had mentioned third parties as being involved, together with a list of people who had been receiving mail at the property, despite not living there. Despite this, none of these people were summoned to testify in these proceedings, observed the magistrate.

The defendant had released a statement claiming that a third party in Nepal had prepared all the documentation for her, which she had signed, in preparation for her residency application.

The first charge, of knowingly making a false declaration to a public authority from which she would benefit, was not supported by the evidence.

With respect to the second charge, of forgery or intentional use of a forged document, the magistrate said she was of the understanding that the defendant did not have the requisite criminal intent to do so when she had asked a third party to make the arrangements and signed documents necessary for her application to be processed.

Both Tamang and the landlady had said that third parties were involved, noted the court, also pointing to the strong language barrier. Court proceedings had to be held in English and interpreted to Hindi in order for the woman to understand what was being said, observed the magistrate.

“Had the defendant any doubt that things had not been done as they should have been, she would not have gone to Identity Malta herself to report not receiving her ID card, thereby triggering these proceedings against her together with the consequences they carry.”

Inspector Shamus Woods prosecuted. Lawyer  Ishmael Psaila assisted Tamang.