Caruana Galizia murder suspect cleared of 2007 casino fraud

Vince Muscat, known as il-Kohhu, was charged with having defrauded the casino out of €2,329 back in December 2007

Muscat was clear of the 2007 crime due to a lack of evidence
Muscat was clear of the 2007 crime due to a lack of evidence

Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, one of the three men charged with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been found not guilty of attempting to defraud the Casino di Venezia.

Muscat, along with Mario Spiteri, had been accused of attempting to defraud the casino of €2,329.37, using another person’s registration details without their permission and of bribing one of the casino’s croupiers.

In her judgment which was handed down today, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech noted that though the incident had taken place in 2007, the case had only been passed on to her in February 2016.

The police had started investigation the case which had started when a mobile phone was left on croupier Brian Dingli’s windscreen. After he took it, he received a call and was urged to participate in the scheme to defraud the bank.

The scheme involved Dingli arranging the cards in a particular sequence, which would then be communicated to someone playing online.

The court heard how the player involved in the scheme was using an account belonging to a Joseph Buttigieg from Ghajnsielem, Gozo.

An analysis of the casino’s CCTV footage showed Dingli not shuffling the playing cards cards, hiding his hands beneath the table and using his mobile after taking a break.  

Dingli was eventually found guilty, while Buttigieg had later admitted his involvement to the police, and had also implicated Muscat and another man in the fraud by saying that he had passed on his password and log in details to them. Buttigieg admitted to being present when the two would play and to seeing them read message on their mobile before winning “considerable amounts of money”.  

Despite his admission, Buttigieg had only been charged in court four months later. Buttigieg was sentenced and conditionally discharged on the 12 May 2008.

For some reason however the pair were only charged on 24 June 2008, with the first sitting falling on the 24 September of the same year.

Buttigieg was at this point the only person who could implicated Muscat, with the court noting that “given [Buttigieg’s] importance to the case, one would have expected that, if he wasn’t going to be made to testify under oath before a magistrate, that an effort would have been made to have the case heard as soon as possible after his came became res judicata”.

It later transpired that Buttigieg had emigrated to Australia before the summer of 2008.

Local authorities, through a number of rogatory letters, attempted to obtain a voluntary witness statement, but were eventually informed in July 2018 that Buttigieg was not willing to speak out of fear of retribution.

“The Australian Federal Police has advised Australia’s Central Authority that it does not have the resources available to facilitate Malta’s request as it is fully engaged with more serious crime....As you are aware, when Mr Buttigieg was approached by the AFP to provide a voluntary witness statement, he expressed his concern that the persons against whom he was testifying would seek retribution against him or his family in Malta, and that his family members were easily locatable given Malta’s size.”

Muscat and Spiteri were cleared of any wrongdoing because of a lack of evidence linking him to the crime.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia appeared for Spiteri, while Arthur Azzopardi appeared for Muscat.

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