Non-resident ambassador to Cuba fired amid human smuggling, money laundering charges

Foreign minister confirms termination of contract after arrest

Andre D'Amata presenting his diplomatic credentials to the President of the Republic of Cuba in January 2023 (Photo: MFET)
Andre D'Amata presenting his diplomatic credentials to the President of the Republic of Cuba in January 2023 (Photo: MFET)

The Maltese Foreign Ministry has terminated the contract of Andre D’Amato, the country’s non-resident ambassador to Cuba, following his arrest on charges of human smuggling and money laundering.

D’Amato, 37, from Mosta, an ICT professional and company director, was appointed to the ambassadorial position in October 2020. However, his tenure was abruptly ended once the ministry was informed of his arraignment on serious criminal charges.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry confirmed the termination with the Times of Malta, stating: “The ministry was informed by the competent authorities that this person was involved in a criminal case, and on the same day, internal instructions were issued to terminate his contract with immediate effect.”

The termination was communicated to the Cuban Embassy in Rome.

D’Amato, who spent a week in preventive custody following his arraignment, was released on Wednesday due to a procedural error by the prosecution. He faces multiple charges including human trafficking, money laundering, computer misuse, forgery of official documents, using forged documents, fraud, and making false declarations. The alleged crimes were committed between 2018 and earlier this month.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the prosecution, represented by Attorney General lawyers Ramon Bonett Sladden, Andreas Vella, and police inspector Karl Roberts, sought to amend the charge sheet to include charges of money laundering, fraud, and document falsification. However, instead of amending the existing charge sheet, they filed a completely new one dated Wednesday, as if starting the arraignment anew.

Defense lawyers Franco Debono, Alfred Abela, and Karl Cordina strongly objected to D’Amato's continued detention under these circumstances. Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech noted that the prosecution had not merely added charges but had initiated a new procedure with the fresh charge sheet. She observed that D’Amato's initial arrest was based on a warrant issued the previous week, and his detention was upheld under the same warrant.

Ruling that the fresh procedure rendered his continued arrest illegal, Magistrate Frendo Dimech ordered D’Amato's immediate release from custody.

The case has drawn significant attention, given D’Amato's diplomatic status and the serious nature of the charges. The Foreign Ministry’s prompt action reflects its stance on maintaining integrity within its diplomatic corps. The investigation into the charges against D’Amato is ongoing.