Turnkey contractor acquitted of misappropriating €19,000 after case ruled time-barred

The court noted that the incident allegedly occurred in 2009 and that there was no record of when the accused was notified, only that he had first appeared to answer the charges in October 2015 

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A turnkey contractor who left Malta after pocketing €19,000 for a job he left unfinished has been acquitted of misappropriation, due to the charges against him being time-barred.

45-year-old Amad Aluwyad Nabil Mahmoud from Lebanon had been accused of misappropriation after failing to carry out works which he had been contracted to do in a Sliema residence. The amount agreed for the works was to be €30,000.

A €7,500 deposit was paid by the customer, but after ten days a further €9,000 were requested to buy materials. Two days later, he had gone to the customer’s house late at night and demanded €2,500 more, saying if this was not paid, he would disappear. Although his demands for payment were being met, employees of Mahmoud had started to tell the customer that they were not being paid by the accused and in January 2009, the man vanished.

The first instalment of €7,500 had been paid in cash, the second instalment of €9,000 by cheque and the third payment of €2,500 was also paid in cash, the customer told the court, explaining that she had been fearful of the accused and had her young son with her. No receipts were given by the accused, she said.

Mahmoud had been recommended by a friend of hers, she said, but in the contract there was a reference to a certain AD Contractors Limited. 

A police report was filed, with the woman alleging that Mahmoud’s lawyer Roberto Montalto had known about the fraud. Montalto had been excused from professional secrecy by the court and had testified to having himself suggested that the woman involve the police and confirm whether the accused had left Malta.

A year after this episode, she had hired another firm to complete the works.

At around the same time, the accused had turned up in Malta again and had gone to Montalto, explaining that he needed to leave the islands because of financial problems. The accused had admitted that he had not completed the works for which he had been paid, said the lawyer.

But Montalto added that no police reports over the alleged threats had been filed and that no estimates of the cost of the remaining works had been given to him by the plaintiff.

The subject matter of the case was civil in nature, but because the civil action had been time barred, the woman’s only option was to filed criminal proceedings, he had explained.

The court of magistrates had ruled against Mahmoud in 2016 and he had appealed. The court of appeal had declared the case null and ordered that it be reheard.

It was eventually assigned to magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo in 2017. The accused had not objected to the case being decided summarily.

Magistrate Farrugia Frendo, in her judgment on the matter, observed that although there was clearly misappropriation of an amount of money, the court had no hard evidence as to the precise amount and there was no way for the court to arrive at it.

In addition to this, the court noted that the incident allegedly occurred in 2009 and that there was no record of when the accused was notified, only that he had first appeared to answer the charges in October 2015. 

This, said the court, meant that the charges as presented against the accused were time-barred by the lapse of five years from the alleged crime.

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