Building contractor who pocketed property deposits jailed

The court pointed to the man’s long criminal record which it said was indicative of the man’s character

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A building contractor who fraudulently pocketed property deposits has been jailed for four years and ordered to refund the equivalent of Lm75,000 to two businessmen he defrauded in 2006.

Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla, testifying in the case against 60-year-old Antonio Vassallo had told the court that the man had received an offer from two partners in a construction company for a property in Hamrun near Mile End.

The deal had fallen through because the prospective buyers lost interest following some complications. But Vassallo had then offered them another property, consisting of a house and two shops, in Sliema. A promise of sale was signed and a deposit of Lm25,000 was paid.

While awaiting a development permit to be issued, the two businessmen were encouraged to enter into another promise of sale on a plot of land at Benghajsa by the accused. Another Lm35,000 had been paid as a deposit on that deal.

The businessmen had later discovered that the land they had “bought” was, in fact, subject to expropriation by the State.

Fortunately, they managed to get their money back on that deal. They weren’t quite as lucky with yet another deal brokered by Vassallo, this time for a plot of land Birzebbuga

The plot of land was situated in an area known as ‘tal-gass’ for which the two businessmen had been persuaded to pay a Lm75,000 deposit.

 

But again, the transfer of property never took place, lacking even a promise of sale agreement.

 

Vassallo had, instead, come up with a number of excuses for the delay, which included ongoing notarial searches on the property and claiming that one of the sellers had admitted to Mount Carmel Hospital.

The two businessmen soon understood that they had been fooled and had sought legal advice, before filing a criminal complaint against Vassallo.

Vassallo denied swindling the men and had pleaded not guilty to related charges.

After being assigned the case in 2013, magistrate Ian Farrugia observed that there had been a lot of time wasting up to that point.

Having seen the evidence, the court said that the way the accused acted and intervened in the complainants’ business, indicated “a planned and convincing deception” aimed at getting the victims to part with their money.

The court also noted the man’s long criminal record, commenting that it showed the man’s character. Finding Vassallo guilty of fraud, the court condemned him to a four-year prison sentence and ordered him to refund the Lm75,000.

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