Ponzi fraudster charged with money laundering alongside Dalli daughters

Chief instigator of Ponzi fraud that embroiled John Dalli in the Bahamas misadventure appears in court

John Dalli and daughter Louisa, during their Bahamas stay with alleged fraudster Eloise Corbyn Klein
John Dalli and daughter Louisa, during their Bahamas stay with alleged fraudster Eloise Corbyn Klein

Former fraud squad police inspector Jonathan Ferris has told a court that a woman accused of running a Ponzi scheme was assisted by John Dalli – the former European commissioner – and his daughters, to process payments from gold investments.

The compilation of evidence against Dalli’s daughters continued Monday morning before Magistrate Caroline Farrugia Frendo, where inspector Yvonne Farrugia also charged 75 year-old Marie Eloise Corbyn Klein with offences relating to money laundering and misappropriation.

Corbyn Klein, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, had missed previous court sittings and her own arraignment due to ill health.

The Ponzi scheme, first reported by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia back in 2015, was allegedly run by Corbin Klein, who operated under a number of aliases. The woman was later investigated by the FBI for having allegedly scammed Americans out of some $600,000 by posing as a Christian missionary and convincing them to invest their savings into an African mining project.

Instead the money was funneled into two Maltese companies – Tyre Ltd and Corporate Group – owned by Louise Dalli and Claire Gauci Borda, Dalli’s two daughters, and which are registered at John Dalli’s home address in Portomaso.

Corbyn Klein refused to answer any questions in court today, not even confirming her identity.

A not guilty plea was entered on her behalf by the court.

Ferris, who had investigated the case as part of the Economic Crimes Unit, testified about the investigation.
In 2014, Ferris and then superintendent Paul Vassallo were investigating her in connection with an OLAF investigation. They had sent officers to observe a flat in Sliema and had sent for the flat’s owner as nobody would answer the door. “We hit a brick wall because the owner of the flat in question said he had no contact with the tenants.”

The police had received various complaints from a company called Upstate 7, calling on them to investigate alleged fraud by Corporate Group Limited.

Initial investigations started to reveal international aliases for Mary Swan, including an American alias for Corbyn Klein, an Irish alias Marianne Swan and other aliases claiming to be from Paraguay and the Philippines.

In May 2015, Superintendent Vassallo took Ferris to the site in Sliema. This time, someone opened for them and met them down the stairs. He was acting suspiciously, said Ferris, and gave his name as Robert Lewis Fioto II, an American citizen. He was arrested and given his rights. During the trip from Sliema to Valletta he told the police that he was an undercover US agent and told them to contact a certain FBI special agent to verify his identity.

He took the police to a flat. Things were suspicious from the get go because he had not been able to insert the key in the lock. Noticing that the door was locked from the inside with the key in the lock, the police had knocked down the door and found five people in the house. They were Corbyn Klein, Fiato, Charles Ray Jackson, Elizabeth Jackson, Robert Mac Ivor and Utta Wick, who is Klein’s carer.

The premises of Corporate Group Ltd was raided and Claire Gauci Borda and Louisa Dalli were interrogated. Gauci Borda collaborated. She was ordered to attend the police inspector’s office the next day.

The investigators went through the company accounts. “What raised my concern was that… all the funds belonging to Corporate and Upstate should have been creditors, but only Elizabeth Jackson was listed as a creditor, being owed around €500,000,” Ferris said.

Ferris also claimed that he was unaware as to how investigations had been leaked to the media.

Ferris said Tyre Ltd was not licenced to carry out investment services. As secretary, Gauci Borda had kept no records of meetings, saying that the company was a charity and that there were no profits. She told investigators that Corbyn Klein had enough gold in her possession to pay the debts many times over, but failed to explain how the creditors had not been paid off several months afterwards.

Ferris quoted Gauci Borda as saying that instructions were given by Corbyn Klein even though she was not a registered officer of the company, and that she believed the use of her aliases was necessary to disguise her identity and wealth.

Gauci Borda told investigators the company had been granted interest-free loans from Upstate 7, and that she had never suspected that Corbyn Klein was capable of committing a crime.

Corbyn Klein told the police that she was introduced to John Dalli through a Peter Stagno Navarra.

She said she flew to Ghana with Gauci Borda’s husband to “check on some gold nuggets”, and that later she met John Dalli in the Bahamas, where she transferred some five tonnes of gold under the name of ‘Terry Nickel’. She said financial difficulties had prevented the repayment of the investment, even though some 100 tonnes of gold were transferred to a bank in the Bahamas – Ferris said.

“She always claimed that she needed multiple identities for her safety because she was always in danger of death. John Dalli had taken her passport after the trip to the Bahamas became public knowledge.”

Ferris also says that Dalli took Corbyn Klein to a Gozo apartment for four days. “She claimed to have been kidnapped with her helper Utta Wick, but she went there of her own free well.”

Inspector Yvonne Farrugia prosecuted. Dr Stefano Filletti and Dr Stephen Tonna Lowell appeared for the Dalli sisters, Dr Arthur Azzopardi appeared for Klein and other associates.