Not enough evidence to charge usury suspect’s father over extortionate loan to baker

Two were charged for loaning money at excessive rates of interest and threatening their victim, almost driving him to suicide

The two alleged loan sharks were acquitted since the prosecution had failed to prove the case
The two alleged loan sharks were acquitted since the prosecution had failed to prove the case

A court of Magistrates has cleared a man who allegedly demanded some €150,000 for a loan of €7,500, of usury, declaring that the evidence did not reach the level of proof required at law.

56-year-old Anthony Galea had been arraigned together with his son Gilbert, 27, on Christmas Eve in 2017, on charges of having allegedly loaned money at excessive rates of interest, threatening their victim and causing him to fear violence, almost driving him to suicide. Galea had denied the charges.

The alleged victim had reportedly sought a loan of €10,000 from Gilbert Galea to refurbish his bakery and purchase equipment for the business.

Galea Jr had subsequently released a statement recounting how he had roped in his father who had involved his father to loan the alleged victim €7,800, entering into a private writing with the borrower.

But the repayment demands and interest had piled up, reaching €150,000 and driving the alleged victim to contemplate suicide.

Criminal charges were made against both father and son who both denied the charges during their joint arraignment.

Proceedings were subsequently separated, with those against the son still ongoing.

In his judgment on the matter against Galea snr., Magistrate Joseph Mifsud observed that the son’s statement released under police questioning was not admissible as evidence against the father.

That statement, which had implicated his father in the crime, had to be discarded as proceedings against the person making the statement had not been concluded, declared the court, citing case law and established doctrines on the subject.

The testimony given by the alleged victim had only mentioned the accused’s name when referencing the son, observed the court, which ruled that this amounted to hearsay evidence and also inadmissible.  

The prosecution had therefore brought forward no evidence that Anthony Galea had actually been involved in the alleged usury, ruled the court.

“There was no evidence that the alleged victim had in any manner, at any time met or communicated, directly or indirectly, with the accused Anthony Galea in respect of the alleged loan,” said the magistrate.

The prosecution had exhibited a private writing for the loan of €7,800 signed by the accused who had stated, during his police interrogation, that he had occasionally lent out money in the past.

However, the case at hand focused solely upon charges linked to a money-lending activity between the accused and the alleged victim between November 2015 and December 2017, the court observed.

“The Court reiterates that it would be very dangerous and detrimental to a person’s fundamental rights if the criminal courts were to rest upon suppositions, conjectures and emotions when delivering judgment.”

The court warned against the dangers of living beyond one’s means which would ultimately cause people to turn to loan sharks.

“Anyone who ends up entangled in usury will ruin his own life and that of those nearest to him,” the court said.

In the light of all evidence put forward, the court concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case, the evidence falling far short of the moral certainty required by law, acquitting the accused of all charges.

The court also lifted a freezing order which had been imposed upon all assets of the accused since January 2018.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi, Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin were defence counsel. Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia appeared for the victim.

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