Auditor Chris Baldacchino was denied bail this afternoon after being charged in court with money laundering.
Baldacchino pleaded not guilty to charges that he had overseen the laundering of funds on behalf of organised crime groups. Magistrate Ian Farrugia denied a request for bail, given the seriousness of the charges. He also noted that some witnesses in the case were yet to testify.
In addition to being remanded in custody, Baldacchino also had his assets frozen.
Baldacchino, along with a number of others, was interrogated by the police last November, following the arrest of Darren Debono and Gordon Debono, on whose behalf Baldacchino is believed to have laundered the money.
A month before, his firm, Chris Baldacchino and Associates, was fined €58,900 by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit over lax anti-money laundering controls which it said could have possibly “led the firm to be used and abused by money-launderers to bypass checks that would otherwise have been carried out”.
Baldacchino was the auditor for Debono’s companies as well as those of others implicated in the racket.
Debono is believed to have been part of a fuel smuggling racket involving Libyan militias and Italian organised crime groups. He was arrested by Italian police in October 2017 and returned to Malta a year later after being released from house arrest.
In February 2018, the United States imposed sanctions on Debono and his companies for his role in threatening the peace, security or stability of Libya through his smuggling activities.
The fuel is believed to have been cleared for sale in Europe using illicit documentation issued by someone at Malta’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. The claim was the subject of an internal investigation, which found that there was no evidence to support the allegation.
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