George Degiorgio (court photo by Seb Tanti Burlo) has been charged with money laundering
The police have strongly indicated they will not take action against a private school for accepting cash payments from one of the men charged with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
George Degiorgio (Iċ–Ċiniż) has been legally unemployed since 1983, when he was a construction worker. However, he has managed to afford a luxurious lifestyle – owning pleasure boats and sports cars and transferring around €25,000 outside Malta through Western Union.
He has also been able to afford to send his four children to a private school, with bills ranging in the thousands. His bank account was dormant and his partner’s account was only used to wire large payments to her mother overseas, meaning school fees were paid in cash.
George Degiorgio’s Corvette – picture posted on Facebook by a family relative
Degiorgio, his partner Anca Adelina Pop and his brother Alfred (Il-Fulu), were recently charged for money laundering – following a police investigation spurred by the arraignment of the two Degiorgios and an accomplice for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
A witness testified on behalf of the school, but presiding magistrate Joe Mifsud banned the publication of his name and the school’s name so as to protect the well-being of Degiorgio’s children.
The school turned down Lovin Malta’s request for comment, saying we are banned from mentioning the school and that doing so would see us reported to the Data Commissioner.
Old mugshots of George Degiorgio and his brother Alfred
Maltese law states that accepting proceeds you know or suspect had originated from criminal activity is in itself an act of money laundering.
However, the police told Lovin Malta that a school is not a “subject-person” – defined in anti-money laundering legislation as “any legal or natural person carrying out either relevant or financial business or relevant activity”.
“As such, accepting school fees as payments for children of alleged criminal persons is neither a crime, nor does a school have any obligation to report this fact to the authorities,” a police spokesperson said. “Entities such as schools do not have any legal obligations to carry out any due diligence.”
“Till now, there are no regulations in place in Malta for controlling cash payments, and as such every business can accept payment for goods or services provided, in any form and type, as long as it is a legal currency or legal instrument accepted as a means of payment in Malta.”
George Degiorgio’s boat, from where he allegedly detonated the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia
However, Malta’s anti-money laundering legislation does ban cash transactions of over €10,000 – both in single payments and in broken-down payments, a practice known as ‘smurfing’.
The fact the murder suspects had lived so lavishly for decades despite being legally unemployed has raised serious questions about the efficacy of Malta’s institutions to clamp down on organised crime.
The Sunday Times last week carried a strongly-worded opinion piece from columnist Mark-Anthony Falzon, who described the situation as “jaw-dropping”.
“The last bit is jaw-dropping. We now know that it is possible, in Malta, to be habitually unemployed with no apparent income, to spend conspicuously, to move around stacks of cash, to do all of this and God knows what else for many years while known to the police, and not be investigated,” he wrote. “If that sounds surreal, it’s exactly what the inspector said in court.”