Terence Gialanze disappeared in 2012. The victims of his deceit suffer to this day

At one point, Terence Gialanze was in business with the two brothers investigated over the Caruana Galizia murder. He disappeared in 2012, leaving behind a trail of lies, debt and deceit

Terence Gialanze. He disappeared in 2012
Terence Gialanze. He disappeared in 2012

Terence Gialanze was a heavily indebted man when he disappeared with no trace in November 2012, court records show.

The 24-year-old flaunted unexplained wealth at a young age. He carried a Bank of Valletta Platinum Visa card with a credit limit of €15,000, owned several luxury cars and a yacht that he kept at the Portomaso Marina.

But underneath this façade of easy money, court records paint a picture of a devious, sweet-talker who convinced vulnerable people to act as guarantors for loans that bankrolled his lavish lifestyle.

His disappearance at the end of November 2012 has left victims, including his step-sister, who suffered an arson attack on her house in 2013, and a sick man who risks losing his house after acting as guarantor for two loans Gialanze obtained from BOV and an individual.

Gialanze married his 19-year-old Russian girlfriend, Inna Furtseva, in December 2007, a year after the two first met in a Russian dance club.

The first brush with the banks came a year later when the seemingly ordinary couple took out a home loan with HSBC for €122,642 to purchase a fourth-floor San Gwann apartment and garage. The deposit for the purchase had been gifted by Gialanze’s father Walter, who owned a now-defunct detergents company based in Mrieħel.

Between 2008 and 2011 the couple were on time with their monthly repayments. But this changed in August 2011 when the repayments stopped and interest started to accrue on the outstanding balance.

The last recorded payment made by Gialanze was a lump sum of €7,000, some two weeks before he disappeared in November 2012.

But the HSBC home loan was only the start of Gialanze’s debt-ridden history.

At around the same time Gialanze had racked up a debt of €70,000 with a certain Hadrian Borg, according to his father.

In an affidavit to the courts, Walter Gialanze said he stepped in to help Terence pay off the debt by pledging factory machinery as a guarantee. The debt had to be repaid by November 2013.

Terence had worked at his father’s company as a sales rep up until 2009, at the age of 21, when he decided to set up his own business. This is when he joined Adrian and Robert Agius to form a company that was to import detergents, sanitary ware, beverages and food.

Company records show that the three men held equal shareholding in the company (2,000 shares each with a nominal value of €1) called Global International Enterprises Ltd.

It was around this time that Gialanze’s wife had gone back to Russia to be close to her family.

‘I’ll take care of your children’

In July 2010, Gialanze’s step-sister, Olivia Mallia, gave birth to her fifth child. She asked her step-brother to be the child’s godparent during the baptism.

Mallia testified in court that after the baptism, Gialanze had asked her to help him set up his own business by acting as a guarantor with her residence for a bank loan.

She was initially reluctant but Gialanze played on her emotions. Mallia had undergone two cancer treatment operations between 2007 and 2008, and given her state, Gialanze said the business would enable him to take care of and financially sustain her children if she died.

Mallia testified in court that she finally gave in to the proposal and on 22 September 2010, she appeared as guarantor on a contract with HSBC in which the bank loaned Gialanze and his wife €175,000.

In fact Furtseva had briefly returned back from Russia to give Mallia a power of attorney to appear on her behalf on the contract drawn up by notary Patricia Hall.

The sanction letter submitted in court indicates that the loan was given to “end-finance the purchase of property abroad”. No details have emerged as to what this property may have been.

Furtseva insisted she did not know why her husband needed the money or how it was spent. Gialanze’s step-sister also assumed it was for her brother’s business.

Mallia’s house was the first guarantee on the contract and Gialanze’s San Gwann flat appeared as a secondary guarantee, despite still being hypothecated for the original home loan.

Court records show that contrary to normal practice, HSBC disbursed the amount to Gialanze in two cash transactions. And despite the loan being issued on both him and his wife, the disbursement payslips were only signed by Gialanze.

‘Big problems and angry people’

The details of this case emerge from a court case that Mallia subsequently filed against her step-brother and his wife, asking them for compensation after HSBC threatened to take possession of her house when the couple stopped paying the bank.

Court testimony reveals how Mallia only became aware of the precarious situation in August 2012 when she chanced upon bank correspondence at her grandmother’s house.

The HSBC correspondence warned Gialanze that the bank would start procedures to foreclose on the property put up as a guarantee.

Mallia confronted her brother about the matter and he admitted having difficulty finding the money to pay back the loan. Gialanze agreed to liquidate a life policy but the money was not enough.

In October that year, while on a short trip abroad, Gialanze wired his sister some money to cover the October repayment. A month later, Gialanze went missing, leaving his step-sister to face the music.

Mallia suffered an arson attack in April 2013 when unknown individuals set fire to the front door of her house. She told the court that after her brother vanished, she passed through a difficult period because Gialanze left “big problems and angry people”.

Mallia eventually reached an agreement with HSBC to pay them a lump sum and settle the bill. Gialanze’s father had reimbursed her to the tune of €48,000 but Mallia sued her missing brother and his wife, asking them to pay her back €30,000.

The case was decided last June when Judge Mark Chetcuti ruled that Gialanze and Furtseva should pay Mallia the requested sum.

Conning vulnerable man

There was another victim of Gialanze however: just seven months after convincing his step-sister to shore him up in 2010, Gialanze again used his persuasive power to convince a certain Mario Pace to act as guarantor on a €200,000 loan he was requesting from Bank of Valletta.

Pace had suffered a debilitating injury while working in Libya some years back and could not work. He also suffered from mental problems with his therapists testifying in court that he was a vulnerable person.

At the start of 2011, Pace faced a bill of €5,000 to redeem the lease on his Marsaxlokk residence. He could not pay and asked his cousin, Mark Pace, for help. Mark Pace introduced Mario to Terence Gialanze.

This was the start of a saga that sees Mario Pace fighting in court to save his only house from foreclosure till this very day.

Gialanze had offered to pay Mario Pace’s €5,000 bill if he used his house as collateral for a loan he was seeking from BOV. The deal was presented as “a business venture”.

The loan turned out to be an overdraft facility to the tune of €200,000, which Gialanze was supposed to have used for his business venture.

In April 2011, Gialanze obtained the finance from BOV with Pace appearing as guarantor on the contract drawn up by notary Patricia Hall.

The defendent in the case is contending that in the contract no reference was made of Gialanze as a married man. According to public records, Gialanze was still married to Furtseva and the notary did not attach with the contract any deed indicating otherwise.

During court proceedings, Furtseva declared: “I was married to Terence Gialanze from the year 2007. I am still married to him but he is missing.”

However, in her testimony, the notary said she had followed what was in the bank's sanction letter and in the case of a man, his status does not necessarily have to be listed unless he is legally separated. Hall said: "In the case of a loan or overdraft, I follow the sanction letter. If the sanction letter did not ask for a hypothec from the wife, she is not listed on the contract."

Court records show that Gialanze was pressuring Mario Pace to decide quickly because the BOV Gzira branch manager with whom he had a good rapport was going to be replaced. It transpires that Gialanze knew one of the customer relationship officials at the bank and in Facebook photos deposited in court, Gialanze is seen embracing this bank official during a social occasion.

Testifying, the official, who lives in Ibragg, could not recall when the photo was taken.

Pace never received the promised €5,000 to settle his housing bill despite repeated attempts to get Gialanze to pay up.

In January 2015, BOV opened a court case against Gialanze and Mario Pace, to recoup the outstanding debt.

The case is ongoing.

‘Spitting blood’

But Pace’s saga did not end with the BOV loan. Seven months later, in November 2011, Pace was coaxed into providing a guarantee for another private loan, of €100,000, which Gialanze had taken from an individual by the name of Anthony Mizzi.

The matter is subject to another court case, which is awaiting judgment.

Mizzi had testified in court that the money he gave Gialanze was not a loan but an investment in Gialanze’s import business.

Mizzi described how Gialanze would give him a cut of the profits from the business venture, although he had no records of the number of containers that were imported.

At one point, between the ‘capital investment’ and profits that were reinvested in the business, Mizzi claimed €177,000.

But when repayments of profits became erratic, Mizzi insisted that Gialanze provide a guarantee for the €100,000 investment. This is where Pace entered the picture for a second time.

Pace’s Marsaxlokk house was put up as a guarantee in a constitution of debt contract drawn up by notary Rosalyn Aquilina between Gialanze and Mizzi.

Gialanze was listed as single on the contract and no proof was attached to the contract to indicate this was the case.

The notary also “assumed” Mizzi had his wife’s permission to enter into the contract without exhibiting any power of attorney.

Testifying in this case, Pace told the court that before he disappeared, Gialanze had gone crying to him, alleging that Mizzi’s loan was usury and that he was charging him high interest rates on repayments.

Pace also told the court that he had gone to see Gialanze at his office in Mrieħel and found him “spitting blood”. Pace claimed that Gialanze told him he had an altercation with Mizzi. Mizzi has denied these claims, insisting that the money was not a loan but an investment.

When questioned in court why he chose to act as guarantor for a second time despite having been let down by Gialanze, Pace insisted he had no choice.

“Terence Gialanze told me he needed this money to be able to unlock the overdraft before he could pay me,” Pace testified.

After Gialanze’s disappearance, Pace opened court proceedings against Mizzi, asking the court to annul the contract in which his house is listed as collateral. The case awaits judgment.

The court cases paint a desperate picture of a young man who, aided by accommodating banks, was wallowing in debt while trying to maintain a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars and boats.

Gialanze’s sweet-talking got him so far and after disappearing in 2012, he left a trail of destruction that continues to hurt vulnerable people until today.

Clarification:

In a previous version of this article it was claimed that notary Patricia Hall failed to list Gialanze as married. This argument was made by the defendent in the case. More detail is now being given on the testimony of notary Patricia Hall and why no reference to Gialanze's marital status was made in the BOV loan agreement contract.

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