Accountant charged with misappropriating €4 million in clients’ investments

Maltese Cross Financial Services director ‘admitted there was an undeclared €6 million shortfall in clients’ assets,” fellow directors had said.

Jean Claude Bugeja, the director of investigated financial services firm Maltese Cross Financial Services Ltd, was today remanded in custody after he pleaded not guilty to misappropriating and laundering €4 million in clients’ investments.

Standing in court this afternoon and faced with seven pages of charges, Bugeja, 42, of St Venera, also pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges, to fabricating bank documents and certificates, and to providing financial services without a valid licence amongst others.

The alleged misappropriation of funds is said to have occurred between January 2008 and August 2014, and involved at least 60 investors. Informed sources said that despite being charged with misappropriating €4 million, this sum is expected to increase to €6.8 million once the accounts are collated.

Defence lawyer Joe Giglio told the court that at this “premature stage of proceedings, the defence would not be requesting bail.”

Consequently, the court remanded the accused in custody. The court, presided by Magistrate Doreen Clarke, froze Bugeja’s assets, allowing him €14,000 a year on which to live. Moreover, the court argued that these must be declared as not having been sourced from clients’ investments.

The case was brought to light in August after the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) suspended the company’s operations after it had been established that the company “has a material shortfall in clients’ assets, which shortfall appears to have arisen from the possible misuse and manipulation of such assets.”

Bugeja, the former managing director of Island Financial Services, was subsequently ordered to resign and desist from providing any financial services. He was also suspended from operations and prohibited from accessing the company records, IT system or offices.

Moreover, several investors have been filing judicial protests against the firm and its directors –Jean Claude Bugeja, Robert Cutajar, and Stephen Spiteri – claiming that the latter’s “negligence, illegal actions and financial advice caused them to lose their investments.”

However, in their counter protest, directors Robert Cutajar and Stephen Spiteri had insisted that Bugeja had admitted to the undeclared €6 million shortfall in clients’ assets, and had also said that police were immediately called in.

Inspector Ian Abdilla prosecuted while Lawyer Joe Giglio was defence counsel

Lawyers Stefano Filletti, Gianella de Marco, Gianluca Caruana Curran, Kathleen Grima, and Adrian Delia are parte civile.