Licenses for childcare centres owned by a couple facing charges over human trafficking and running a brothel have been suspended by the Education Ministry.
A ministry spokesperson told the national broadcaster TVM that it is taking on the case with the utmost severity.
Happy Faces Childcare Centre, which operates in Swieqi and Mosta, is owned by Francesca Caruana and her husband Duncan, who were charged in court on 15th June following a police investigation into a suspected brothel in Marsaskala.
Lovin Malta earlier revealed that the childcare centres were still open and operating as of this morning. Questions sent to the Education Ministry by Lovin Malta remain unanswered.
Childcare Centres Providers Association (CCPA) has also suspended Happy Faces’ membership with President Simon Zammit telling Lovin Malta that it was handling the case with the utmost seriousness – but defended the many good operators and workers in the field and the scrutiny it faces from authorities.
Zammit also said that the association and other operators would help in providing alternatives for current students of the centre.
Francesca is listed as the Managing Director of Happy Faces. However, no official website or company name can be found.
Three women were discovered at the property in a police raid, one of whom was not charged after police ascertained that she was a victim of human trafficking. Duncan Caruana was also arrested during the raid.
According to police, Duncan Caruana would charge €50 for every 30 minutes with the women, collecting the payment from clients himself, keeping half of it.
His wife, Francesca, was also part of the operation, organising meetings with potential clientele. She would also tell the women by text when to open the door for them.
The couple, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, were refused bail while an attempt to keep their names blocked from publication was rejected by the courts.
It should be noted that the Caruanas have so far pleaded not guilty to the offences. It is also as yet unclear whether any of the proceeds from the prostitution racket were used in the childcare centre.
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