The stepdaughter of former footballer Darren Debono and a former banking official have been taken to court for their alleged involvement in a money-laundering scheme linked to an international fuel smuggling operation.
Florinda Sultana, alongside Albert Buttigieg, the former Head of Unit at BNF Bank, pleaded not guilty to a number of charges, according to a report published by Times of Malta.
The two individuals were subject to search and arrest warrants last year following a police investigation into suspected oil smugglers Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti.
Debono and Chetcuti, along with ten others, were arrested at the time with Debono making bail just the other week.
While Sultanta is the stepdaughter of Debono, Buttigieg allegedly aided the former footballer to avoid financial detection in his capacity at BNF Bank.
Sultana and Buttigieg now face charges of money laundering.
Sultana is the former director of Nesvan Company Ltd and MSI Catering Ltd, which operates Porticello in Valletta. Buttigieg is the director of Luzzu Catering Ltd, the operator of Capo Mulini in Marsaxlokk.
The restaurants are believed to be a front for a €30 million fuel smuggling racket, with both restaurants adopting the same payment methods and ePOS systems so that daily cash flow was not deposited, avoiding any probes by banks.
It was revealed in court today that a search of Sultana’s home in November yielded €52,000 in cash as well as high-end luxury items including ten watches, one of which was a Rolex, and an Audi A1 – all of which could not be linked to any bank transactions.
A search of Buttigieg’s residence ended with the seizure of a number of documents and electronic devices. When interrogated, Buttigieg failed to explain how Capo Mulini managed to register profits of €1 million despite claims that the restaurant was struggling financially.
Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech confirmed a freezing order on all assets of Sultana and Buttigieg. The restaurants will still be allowed to continue to operate under supervision.
Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Martina Cuschieri are defence counsel.
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