Man charged with money laundering over bank withdrawal of under €1,000

Warehouse employee accused of money laundering and handling stolen goods after withdrawing money deposited in his bank account by a third party

A warehouse employee from Nigeria is facing money laundering charges after allegedly withdrawing a sum of under €1,000 which had been deposited in his bank account by a third party.

Jolly Agbonmware, 37 from Siggiewi, appeared in the dock before Magistrate Lara Lanfranco on Tuesday, accused of money laundering and handling stolen goods.

He pleaded not guilty and asked for bail.

The defendant’s lawyers – Mario Mifsud, Nicholas Mifsud and legal procurator Colin Galea – told the court that their client had been charged after withdrawing less than €1,000 which had been deposited into his account by a third party.

Police inspector Clive Brimmer and prosecutor Nathaniel Falzon objected to the request for his release from arrest on the grounds of his irregular immigration status. The court was told that his application for a residence permit in Malta had been rejected, but his appeal was “somehow still pending”, which meant that Agbonmware presented a high risk of absconding.

“It is not a concern at all, and I will explain why,” interjected lawyer Nicholas Mifsud. “I have evidence to show that he is staying in Malta legally, but the prosecution has also just said that his status is currently pending appeal, so no final decision has been given. If this ground is upheld, there will be no point in filing an appeal to immigration decisions at all.”

“His employer is here in the courtroom. He is legally residing in Malta and is legally employed. The prosecution’s argument is that the status is illegal because of pending appeal, which doesn’t make sense.”

Mario Mifsud took issue with the fact that his client had been arraigned under arrest, telling the court “we have had defendants in cases involving more than €20,000 who were charged by summons, and who got suspended sentences, yet here we have an arrest in a case about €1000”.

Falzon replied that the prosecution was not contesting the defendant’s work or residence permit, but was only taking issue with his immigration status in its objections to bail.

The court was told that the owner of the company which employed the defendant, Eurofreight Services, was present in the courtroom and was prepared to vouch for him. She was called to the witness stand to explain further.

Agbonmware had been working at the company’s warehouses, unloading, loading and securing cargo since November last year, she said, adding that he was married, with two children, and had been living in Malta for two years.

The court granted the man bail against a €1,000 deposit and personal guarantee €3,000, which the man’s boss immediately provided.