Former notary Pierre Falzon jailed for five years

The former notary has been ordered to pay over €90,000 to his victims 

Disgraced former notary Pierre Falzon has been jailed for five years and perpetually interdicted after a court found him guilty of a malicious violation of his official duties, making false declarations to a public authority and misappropriation, aggravated by his profession. 

He was also ordered to repay over €90,000 to his victims.

Falzon had turned in his warrant in 2016 after being convicted of misappropriation in a separate case.

Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech’s 62-page judgment reads like a compendium of property buyers’ worst nightmares, detailing each and every transaction and where the money handed over, ended up.

In one case, a €12,800 deposit on a property was deposited into Falzon’s wife’s bank account in July 2010. When the funds were required a cheque was duly issued but was referred to drawer by the bank. The account had insufficient funds to cover that cheque since August 2010, noted the court.

Others had paid the notary thousands to cover taxes, succession and property registration fees, only to discover, years down the line, that these had not been paid – although their cheques had been cashed by the notary, his wife or companies he was involved in: P.E.R.G. Ltd and Elpirega Ltd.

The court observed that the notary had also knowingly made a number of false declarations to the authorities and in so doing had also committed misappropriation.

In her considerations on punishment, magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech took into account the gravity of the case “where notary Falzon embarked on conduct which was out of control and knew no bounds with one aim in mind – that of defrauding as much money as possible from people…whose only ‘error’ was that of entrusting him with their money; an unscrupulous conduct without heed or interest in those who trusted him to protect their rights and acquisitions, or when they approached him in times of sorrow to open a succession.”

The court noted that 17 cases had been investigated by the police. In the time since the case had been filed in 2012 to the date of final judgment, the accused had either paid the tax or entered into a constitution of debt or refunded the money to some of the complainants.

In finding guilt, the court had discarded the accused’s statement as it had been taken without the assistance of a lawyer.

After examining legal doctrines and jurisprudence on the matter of unjustified enrichment and misappropriation, the court ruled that Falzon’s crimes had not simply been down to his failure in separating monies deposited in his professional capacity, but what he did with that money. “With money belonging to third parties, given to him for a specific use…he chose instead to deposit them in accounts belonging to his wife, his creditors, held on to them himself or deposited them in accounts belonging to [P.E.R.G. Ltd and Elpirega Ltd,] companies which he had a role in, without proceeding to make the payments owed to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

The defence had argued that he had used the accounts to circumvent garnishee orders issued against him, but the court pointed out that he had still spent months if not years to pay the authorities. “Why did he leave Malta with so many unresolved issues, with a long list of people chasing him to do what he was obliged and entrusted to do? With people who had trusted him seeing what they had worked for being lost, tied down and thrown into such complications and legal proceedings capriciously?”

“Seeing as the garnishees did not extend to the accounts of his wife, those of P.E.R.G. Ltd and Elpirega Ltd. What kept him back from making the payments owed? After all, what held him back from dictating that instead of the cheques or bank drafts being written in his personal name, directing the client to write them to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue directly?”

The court asked why, if he was so fearful of them being caught under garnishee orders, did he deposit the monies in companies which he was involved in.

“It makes much more sense that they were deposited in accounts belonging to his wife and companies, not to be hidden from some garnishee, but precisely to profit off the back of clients whom he had misled through his malign actions,” said the magistrate, not mincing her words.

The deposits resembled money laundering, said the court, noting that this also counted against his wife and corporate liability of the companies which benefited from the money.

In the course of their investigations, the police discovered that the notary had also been involved in the falsification of the signatures of a mediator and judge, now Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi in a separation case. But they had failed to request a calligraphic examination of the signatures, leading the court to say that it “could only speculate as to who was the author of these fake signatures.” For this reason, he was acquitted of the charges related to those documents.

He was found guilty of the other charges, however being sentenced to five years imprisonment, the payment of €1,020 in costs of appointing court experts, ordered to repay the money he had misappropriated and disqualifying him from holding a notary’s warrant again. He was also placed under a perpetual general interdiction.

Finally, the court also ordered the Commissioner of Police to investigate his wife, P.E.R.G. Ltd and Elpirega Ltd under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

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