Maltese parents are facing a judge for playing with their son’s cancer treatment donations

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Posted on: June 17, 2022, 05:34h.

Last update: June 17, 2022, 10:43 a.m.

The parents of a 7-year-old boy in Malta have received donations from friends, family and charities to cover their son’s cancer treatment. Instead, they would have gambled and now have to answer to a judge.

Malta Courthouse
A Maltese courthouse in Valletta. A couple appeared in court in Malta this week to face charges of misappropriation of money and gambling expenses. (Image: Times of Malta)

The 31-year-old father and 27-year-old mother from Mosta, Malta, face charges of embezzlement, fraud and money laundering after their arrest a few years ago. They finally appeared before a judge yesterday, according to Malta todaywhere they entered pleas of not guilty to all charges

Lawyer Noel Bianco represents the couple, who claim to be unemployed. He fought for the release on bail of his two clients, but was only partially successful.

Intentional deception

The father was the main culprit, according to prosecutor Karl Muscat. He told the court the mother knew what was going on, but the father, who pleaded not guilty, was responsible for the gambling activity.

Muscat explained that the father gambled online with money he received from his wife, who also claimed his innocence. He also said the father had access to the woman’s bank accounts.

He said the investigation was still in its early stages and anyone who allegedly contributed money should testify. In addition, Puttinu Cares, which funds and arranges treatment for cancer patients overseas, will likely appear as witnesses.

Muscat said that during questioning, the father mentioned a bookmaker who could confirm that the money he was gambling was, in fact, his horse racing betting winnings. However, the prosecutor added that the police had spoken to the bookmaker. At the time, he acknowledged the legitimate source of funds for some of the bets. However, the amount was less than what the father had spent.

Muscat claimed that the bookmaker’s assistant was a witness to the gambling transactions and that the case hinged on his testimony. He claimed that it was possible that the father would contact this witness to try to get him to change his testimony.

Bianco countered that the bookmaker has since died, which reduces the credibility of the assistant. He said the father had made a complete turnaround in his life in recent years. He underscored this by pointing out that a criminal court judge had previously commuted a sentence the father had received in another criminal case.

One free, one remains in prison

Bianco attempted to secure bail for both, as well as a publication ban on the names. He also pointed out that the parents had been released on bail by the police but had not tried to influence any witnesses.

Muscat opposed the father’s bail, pointing out that the couple face charges of defrauding not only independent entities, but also their own son. He said many people and entities donated money for their son’s treatment. But instead of using it for that purpose, they played it all.

Because of this, and because of his 26-page criminal record, the father is not trustworthy. Therefore, the court denied the bail request and took him into custody.

Concerned about the well-being of the child, the mother received a free pass. She was released on bail of €1,000 ($1,050) and a personal guarantee of €10,000 ($10,506).

After bail talks were over, the defense asked the court to ban the publication of the names and addresses of the defendants. However, it was almost a theoretical undertaking, as the family once appeared on a local talk show about the son’s cancer.

Nevertheless, the court granted the request for a publication ban on the names of the defendants. At the same time, he ordered the freezing of the couple’s assets.

Then the couple will return to court for sentencing. No date has yet been set for this appearance.

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