A high-profile money laundering case took a strange twist yesterday after it was revealed that dodgy footage had been found on one of the suspect’s devices.
The footage, IT court expert Martin Bajada testified, was originally taken by a hidden camera which was installed inside a ladies’ toilet. It later ended up in money laundering suspect Albert Buttigieg’s possession, stored onto a USB stick.
Bajada passed on the footage to magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, who asked the police to investigate further.
How many photos were found?
Several reports yesterday said Bajada had found 14,000 photos of women inside the toilet within Buttigieg’s device. However, Lovin Malta is reliably informed that these 14,000 photos refer to 14,000 stills from one or more videos that the camera had filmed.
It is unknown how many people were actually filmed, but it’s certainly way fewer than 14,000, and many of the stills actually just show an empty cubicle.
Sources close to Buttigieg have told Lovin Malta that the video only shows a handful of people.
Who took the video?
Bajada never specified whether Buttigieg filmed the video himself or whether he received it from a third party. Indeed, his job was only to find evidence from Buttigieg’s IT devices which would require further money laundering police investigations – in fact, such evidence was found on three pen drives and a laptop.
However, he flagged the toilet footage to the magistrate because it could potentially be evidence of a separate, unrelated crime.
Sources close to Buttigieg say he didn’t install or operate the camera himself, but received the footage from a third party.
Where and when was the video taken?
It is unknown. Some initial reports had suggested it was filmed inside a cubicle at Buttigieg’s Marsaxlokk restaurant Capo Mulini but there is no evidence that this was the case.
Neither is there evidence suggesting when this video was taken, and sources close to Buttigieg have told Lovin Malta it was taken several years ago, before his restaurant even existed.
Who is Albert Buttigieg anyway?
Once head of corporate banking at BNF, Buttigieg opened the Marsaxlokk restaurant Capo Mulini shortly after retiring from the bank in 2018.
He was thrust into the spotlight last month after he was arrested and charged with money laundering, along with Florinda Sultana, another restaurant owner who operates Porticello (formerly Scoglitti) in Valletta. Both are pleading not guilty.
Sultana is the stepdaughter of Darren Debono, a former footballer who has also been charged with money laundering in a separate case, as well as with fuel smuggling in Italy.
Debono’s arrest in Italy a few days after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia led to speculation in the press that he might have masterminded the journalist’s murder. The Times of London also quoted “pro-[Maltese] government sources” linking the murder to Debono’s arrest.
Shortly after Yorgen Fenech was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of masterminding the murder, MaltaToday owner Saviour Balzan revealed that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had fomented a story in the local and international press that fuel smugglers and their cronies were behind the murder.
Times of Malta reported last month that police suspect Buttigieg of having unfairly helped Debono “bypass the system and avoid detection of financial layering” in his previous role at Banif.
After they were charged, PS Francesco Farrugia said Buttigieg had failed to explain how his business had managed to register earnings of €1 million.