‘Cunning wolf’ who stole €57,000 from Australian relatives’ property sale, is sentenced

Raymond Buhagiar admitted to having pocketed the proceeds of 2016 property deal instead of remitting them to Australia-based relatives, whom he had been representing under power of attorney

File photo
File photo

A 67 year-old man from Zurrieq has been ordered to return €57,000 that he had received from a 2016 property deal, to his Australia-based relatives, whom he had been representing under power of attorney.

Raymond Buhagiar had been arraigned in July 2022, on charges of misappropriation and fraud to the detriment of his Maltese-Australian relatives. He was also accused of recidivism.

He had been charged after his relatives filed a criminal complaint. They had filed and won a civil case, after which garnishee orders had been issued, but in spite of their efforts, Buhagiar had failed to return all the money.

During the man's arraignment, Police Inspector Sean Paul Farrugia, prosecuting together with lawyer Andrea Zammit from the Office of the Attorney General, had explained to the court that the victims had granted Buhagiar power of attorney to represent them in the sale of a parcel of land in Malta which they owned, but that he had simply pocketed the proceeds of the sale - amounting to €57,000- instead of remitting it to his relatives.

Buhagiar had initially denied having misappropriated the money, but had reversed his not guilty plea in June 2023. He also expressed an intention to repay the victims.

In its considerations on punishment, the Court of Magistrates, presided by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, noted the defendant’s previous convictions and the circumstances of the case, together with the pre-sentencing report drawn up by his Probation Officer.

The magistrate pointed out that while she was taking all this into consideration, Buhagiar had already had “more than enough time to make a complete restitution if that was really his intention.” 

In view of this, the court imposed a limit of 6 months in which the repayment of the remaining €47,000 is to take place, warning the defendant that no extensions would be granted and pointing out that he was facing a maximum sentence of 9 years, with time added on for recidivism. Failure to pay a single instalment would render the entire amount immediately due, “without further exceptions or excuses which the court is by now fed up of hearing from the defendant.”

It was in the interests of Buhagiar’s victims that he remains in a position to pay back the rest of the money he misappropriated, said the court, and so a prison sentence was not ideal at this stage. 

“However, the defendant must also compensate the society whose laws he had broken, laws intended to protect it from fraudulent and cunning wolves as he had shown himself capable of being,” ruled the magistrate, sentencing Buhagiar to probation for three years and ordering him to complete 100 hours of community service. 

Lawyer Leontine Calleja assisted Buhagiar as legal aid. Lawyer David Bonello represented the victims.