A shamed Valletta priest believed to have stolen up to €100,000 in sacred art from his parish was blackmailed into stealing the items, a court said today as it handed down a suspended sentence.
Deo Debono has been sentenced to two years in prison suspended for four years after Magistrate Ian Farrugia said he had not stolen the items for personal gain, or even for his parish’s gain, but because he was being blackmailed.
This comes after the priest pleaded guilty to at least three charges levelled against him earlier today.
Magistrate Farrugia said there was an element of “humiliation and blackmail” in this shocking series of events, which saw the priest selling sacred items such as incense burners for much below their value.
It is however not yet known who blackmailed Debono, and for what reasons.
Debono has also been ordered to pay €9,500 to Noel Borg, the antique dealer who bought some of the stolen items. Debono was given six months to pay him back.
Debono, who celebrated within the St Augustine Parish in Valletta, is believed to have stolen the art over many months and sold them for well below their actual value, sources have reportedly said. He has also reportedly admitted to the police that he was involved in the operation.
The holy art, which was located in the Augustinian Convent in Valletta, was allegedly replaced with fakes after being stolen, so as to keep the robbery hidden as long as possible.