Drug trafficker Mario Camilleri’s daughter stole €69,000 from parents, court hears

Defence lawyer for Luke Farrugia, accused of complicity in the theft of cash from Mario Camilleri ‘l-Imniehru’, says daughter’s version of events was not credible

Magistrate Ian Farrugia heard closing arguments in a case against a man accused of helping the daughter of murdered drug trafficker Mario Camilleri ‘l-Imniehru’ to steal at least Lm8,000 (€18,635) from her mother – a crime for which the daughter had escaped being prosecuted for because her parents had forgiven her.

In March 2005, Luke Farrugia – 17 years old at the time – had been accused of complicity in, and enjoying the proceeds of, the theft of cash from a moneybox owned by Mario and Mona Camilleri, the parents of his girlfriend, Sarah Camilleri.

Mario Camilleri was murdered in Qajjenza in July 2013 together with his son Mario Jr. Camileri’s brother-in-law Jason Galea and the latter’s half-brother George, who are accused of the murder, are on bail as the compilation of evidence against them continues.

Superintendent Carmelo Bartolo told the court how Luke Farrugia came to be accused of complicity in aggravated theft from Mona Camilleri and receiving stolen goods after Sarah Camilleri had been reported missing, together with an amount of cash kept at home to pay for her father’s bail.

When she was found, Camilleri told police that she was close friends with Luke Farrugia and had promised to help him finance a car repair job.

She had taken Lm6,000 “from over Lm30,000” stashed in her parents’ cash box, and that the accused asked her for a further Lm2,000, which she also later provided. They then rented out a flat belonging to Fais el Sallah, the stepfather of a certain Stacy Chircop, who herself requested Lm500 for putting them in touch.

Farrguia then allegedly went on a spending spree, buying everything from meals, to running shoes, to a pug puppy, the court was told. Police searched the couple’s residence and although the cash was not found, a constable had reported seeing a pug. “This puppy had not been mentioned up to that point. When we went to check again, the puppy was not found, although a lot of dog faeces was present,” Bartolo said.

El Sallah had told the police he had no idea that an underage girl was in the flat and had kicked them out when he became aware of the situation.

Luke Farrugia was subsequently questioned and categorically denied any involvement in the theft.

Defence mauls witness’ credibility

Defence lawyer Giannella De Marco savaged the girl’s credibility, saying Sarah Camilleri was the antithesis of a reliable witness and had given three completely different accounts to police before claiming to have acted on the accused’s instructions.

“Her first version was that she had called her parents to say she was kidnapped by two girls and was being held in a room in Gozo,” De Marco said. “Next, she went to St Julian’s police station to say that she was scared of her parents. But at no point there did she say that she had stolen any money.”

Camilleri’s second version of events was that she feared repercussions from her family, said the veteran defence lawyer. “What type of repercussions I do not know, but as a fact they had a turbulent relationship with Sarah and their reputation is what it is,” she noted.

“When Sarah was investigated as a suspect and interrogated, she came out with her third version, claiming that she had taken Lm6,000 and given the money to Stacy Chircop and El Sallah for rent, who are the same people summoned by the police to testify against Luke Farrugia.”

The lawyer said her mother, Mona Camilleri, had told them that her daughter disappeared on 8 March 2005. “But when she had made the report, she didn’t report that she had Lm30,000 (€69,881) missing or stolen, even though she later told us that she instantly noticed the money was missing.”

De Marco submitted that Sarah Camilleri had voluntarily returned, going to the police out of terror, as she had been violently abused by her parents and siblings in the past – not the first time that the daughter had run away from home.

Then, two or three weeks after her daughter’s return, Mona Camilleri had reported finding her cash box forced open and missing money. “She had told the court that she had so much money at home because she had cashed a cheque, but nobody from the bank had been summoned to verify the cheque or that it had ever been cashed,” De Marco said. “The cash box allegedly broken into was never exhibited to the court either.”

The lawyer said that Mona Camilleri had testified that the money was there to pay for her husband’s bail and said that there had been bail deposits of Lm10,000, Lm5,000 and Lm10,000, but the registrar of courts had been summoned and testified that there had been no such requirement.

“Mario Camilleri was in prison. He wasn’t earning any money. No evidence that Mona Camilleri had been working was shown. Where did the money come from?” De Marco asked.

The lawyer pointed out that Sarah Camilleri had not corroborated her mother’s claim that there had been Lm30,000 or that she had taken Lm30,000. “So even here, Mona Camilleri is not corroborated.”

The accused had not even benefited from the proceeds, De Marco continued. “Luke had bought Sarah a dog called Cicca for Lm450 and a blue tracksuit using the money she had given him. He also paid off a Lm500 debt to his father. He bought some groceries for her because she was afraid her parents would see her outside and had bought her a mobile phone.”

All the versions were equally plausible and implausible, De Marco said. “What is certain is that lying comes easy to this girl.”

She pointed out that in the girl’s second statement to police, she had also implicated Chircop and El Sallah in the crime. “Are we going to believe them?”

De Marco underlined that Farrugia’s statement was taken when he was a minor, without being shown the evidence against him and without a lawyer or parent present, a practice for which a recent European Court judgement had already criticised Malta.

She rued the prosecution’s failure to present the cheque, trainers or cash box from evidence, saying it was "very worrying when the police do not make a full investigation.”

“How much of the money taken were hers or her sisters or her mother’s? They all used the same cash box,” De Marco said.

“Luke had a pending case over the cost of the car accident, so how did she say she had paid for it? And the dog faeces found in the falt could have belonged to an Alsatian or a pug or a chihuahua, we don’t know.”

The lawyer highlighted the fact that the investigation had started 2005, but had not come up with convincing evidence in those 11 years. “I don’t believe there is evidence to prove that he was an accomplice in the theft or handling of stolen goods. With the lies that were said, I am not convinced,” she said.

The case was adjourned until January for sentencing.