Carmelo Abela can’t recall testifying in HSBC heist case in which he admitted using security equipment

OPM Minister Carmelo Abela had access to equipment that produced security access cards at HSBC but cannot recall testifying in the compilation of evidence against 2010 heist suspects

OPM Minister Carmelo Abela
OPM Minister Carmelo Abela

Carmelo Abela would use equipment that produced access cards for HSBC Bank’s main office in Qormi, according to his own testimony 10 years ago.

Abela had been summoned as a witness by the prosecution in the compilation of evidence against Darren Debono, known as it-Topo, and Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, who were accused of executing a daring heist on the bank in June 2010.

However, Abela now claims that he cannot recall testifying in the proceedings when questioned by Times of Malta. His testimony was delivered behind closed doors on his request in February 2011.

At the time of the failed robbery, Abela worked as a senior insurance and statistics officer within the bank’s Department of Security, Health and Safety.

Testimony seen by MaltaToday shows Abela confirming under oath that although he took care of the bank’s insurance, if the need arose he would also take care of other matters linked to the department, including the security section.

Asked specifically whether he had anything to do with the security access cards referred to as cotags, Abela testified that he would use the cotag machine if his work colleague was on leave or sick leave.

Muscat, who was sentenced to 15 years’ jail after admitting to murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia after reaching a plea bargain agreement, has implicated Abela as an accomplice in the HSBC heist.

Caruana Galizia murder suspect Alfred Degiorgio has also claimed having “direct knowledge” that would implicate a sitting minister in the HSBC heist.

Abela has denied these claims and even sued Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi for libel over a Facebook post that made it clear that the man Muscat referred to is Abela and that the minister had been promised €300,000 for providing access cards and internal bank footage.

Abela has insisted he never knew the men making the allegations and on TVM’s Xtra insisted that he was never interrogated by the police on the matter.

However, Abela did not reveal that he had testified in the compilation of evidence. The sitting was held behind closed doors on 7 February 2011 and in comments, the minister insisted he could not remember testifying in the case.


A retired police officer who was close to the HSBC investigation in 2010 had told MaltaToday that the criminals “had a walk-through” by using electronic key cards that could have only come from someone inside.

“It was something we were convinced of and although we had our suspicions all leads led to a dead-end,” the source said.

HSBC’s former head of security had also testified behind closed doors, shortly after the heist, about security arrangements within the bank headquarters.

In testimony seen by MaltaToday, the bank officer said that anyone gaining access to the control room would have been able to grants access to the cash centre.

He explained that access to the control room was possible through the cotag cards that would be issued to a limited number of people, including employees of a third-party security company that manned the control room.

The armed thieves had struck at around 7:45pm, a time when the control room was manned by one person. An armed police officer would have also been present inside the cash centre.

The three armed criminals had walked into the building over-powering the security guard and police officer on duty. However, the hold-up failed when police on patrol noticed the waiting getaway car and gave chase.

Eventually, the armed robbers walked back out and a shoot-out with police ensued.

A third person, Fabio Psaila, was also charged with the heist. All three men are waiting for their trial.

Muscat recently asked for a presidential pardon on the HSBC heist to tell all he knows. However, this was denied by Cabinet in a meeting that Abela recused himself from.

Alfred Degiorgio and his brother George, also had a pardon request turned down. In their request they also claimed to have information on a former minister who was involved in the HSBC heist and the Caruana Galizia murder.

The former minister is believed to be Chris Cardona, who has described these allegations as "pure evil fiction".