15 arrested, five charged in major money laundering crackdown

Money laundering and oil smuggling investigation involving Maltese police and Europol, led to the seizure of 36 cars, €60,000 in cash and a considerable amount of designer clothing

Gordon Debono, pictured right, is one of the five arrested in connection to the investigation
Gordon Debono, pictured right, is one of the five arrested in connection to the investigation

Months of investigation led by the Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crime Investigations Units have resulted in 15 people being arrested in connection to money laundering.

During the operation, police seized 36 vehicles, €60,000 in cash together with jewellery and designer clothing. Electronic equipment, including mobile phones, computers and servers and a considerable amount of documents, which are still to being analysed. 

Five of those arrested have been charged in court on money laundering charges and other offences. They were denied bail and are currently being held under preventive arrest at the Corradino Correctional Facility. Another 15 legal persons (companies) were also charged in court with money laundering offences.

The Embassy of the United States welcomed and commended the Police Force’s actions.

“Through the international anti-money laundering operation, Malta has demonstrated its commitment to working with its regional and international partners, including Europol, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, to protect Libya’s natural resources and to fight transnational organized crime.

“The Malta Police Force’s action also underscores the importance of regional cooperation through initiatives like the Central Mediterranean Security Initiative, a collaborative export control forum where partners from Egypt, Italy, Libya, Malta, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and others come together to share information and best practices.”

Yesterday Gordon Debono and his wife Yvette-Marie Debono were charged with committing acts of money laundering over millions of euro, appearing in ther capacities as directors of 11 companies. Shawn Higgins, an associate of Gordon Debono, was similarly arraigned on charges of money laundering.

READ ALSO: Updated | Operation Dirty oil suspect Gordon Debono charged with laundering millions of euro

In the early hours of Tuesday, Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti were also arrested in connection to suspected money laundering activity. Gordon and Darren Debono (no relation) were touted to be involved in an international fuel smuggling operation involving the Italian mafia and Libyan militia groups.

The statement doesn't clarify whether the remaining 10 are still under arrest or out on police bail. 

Criminal lawyer Arthur Azzopardi had confirmed to MaltaToday that he spent a night in police custody and was interrogated under caution over links to suspected money laundering allegations. 

READ ALSO: Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi on police bail, questioned over links to suspected fuel smugglers

The press release was published after the Court lifted a publication ban that had been imposed on the hearing of Darren Debono. The investigations are a joint coordination with foreign partners, including Europol, US, Italian, and British counterparts.