Conditional discharge for former gaming regulator who tipped off Yorgen Fenech about raid at rival casino

Former MGA chief Heathcliff Farrugia gets three-year conditional discharge for disclosing professional secrets to Yorgen Fenech

Former MGA chief executive officer Heathcliff Farrugia
Former MGA chief executive officer Heathcliff Farrugia

The former CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority, Heathcliff Farrugia, has been convicted of revealing an official secret when he informed former Tumas magnate and alleged murder mastermind, Yorgen Fenech, about an upcoming police raid at a rival casino.

Farrugia was handed a three year conditional discharge by Magistrate Ian Farrugia, after being found guilty of the charges brought against him, namely unlawfully disclosing information he obtained by virtue of his office and revealing professional secrets.

Farrugia resigned in October 2020 after being charged over his communication with Fenech, the alleged conspirator in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and owner of Portomaso Casino.

The chats emerged from the in-depth analysis of Fenech’s phone, seized by police investigators when he was arrested in December 2019 over allegedly commissioning the murder of investigative journalist Caruana Galizia.

24 pages of texts were analysed as having taken place on 23 September, 2019, between 9 and 10pm, showing Fenech had spoken with Farrugia after saying that he felt disappointed with the result of the anti-money laundering compliance review at Tumas Gaming, which owns the two occasions Oracle Casino and Portomaso Casino.

Fenech had complained to Farrugia that the review had given his organisation a bad reputation.

Farrugia consoled Fenech by telling him he would delay the release of the compliance report, and by revealing that another inspection was also going to take place inside Casino Malta – the casino owned Eden Leisure – which is not owned by Tumas.

In a judgement handed down on Monday, Magistrate Ian Farrugia ruled that Farrugia had disclosed this sensitive information to a person who was not authorised to know these details.

In court Farrugia had explained that he had intended to calm Fenech down, and to show him that they also carried out similar inspections on other casinos.

But the court said the prosecution had proven its case against the defendant, underlining that internal information about a list of entities that had been chosen for an anti-money laundering investigation was secret and sensitive information, meant to remain strictly confidential.

Lawyer Ezekiel Psaila assisted Farrugia.