Freezing order against jeweller to stand, court rules

George Tabone had been acquitted of accepting stolen jewels but a court ruled his assets could not be unfrozen because the appeal filed by the Attorney General still had to be decided

Jeweller George Tabone
Jeweller George Tabone

A court has turned down a jewellery shop owner's request to unfreeze his assets after he was acquitted of handling stolen jewels, because of a pending appeal by the Attorney General (AG).

George Tabone, owner of Gram Holdings, Gram Jewellers and Gram Collections filed a constitutional case against the AG, as his assets remain subject to a freezing order until the appeal filed by the AG is decided.

In August 2011 the police had received information that a jewel shop had been robbed of €500,000 worth of stock. During the course of their investigations, the police had interrogated a suspect and his son, who had claimed to have sold the stolen items to Tabone, who was later charged in connection with the heist.

Although Tabone was eventually acquitted in 2015, an appeal was filed by the AG, which meant that the freezing order applied for by the prosecution, over all of Tabone’s assets in March 2013 remained in effect.

Tabone then filed a constitutional application, claiming that he was unable to receive his salary from the companies he owned or pay creditors. This was exposing him to legal action, he said.

The AG however countered, saying that the freezing order had to remain in place until the court of appeal decided the case.

Mr Justice Silvio Meli, found for the AG, ruling that the man’s assets could not be released until the appeal case concluded.

Freezing orders are not there to kick somebody while they are down, said the judge, but to ensure crime does not pay.

Meli concluded that the freezing order was in the public interest, turning down the request.

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