Maltese Parents Face Judge for Gambling with Son’s Cancer Treatment Donations

Posted on: June 17, 2022, 05:34h. 

Last updated on: June 17, 2022, 10:43h.

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

Malta courthouse
A Malta courthouse in Valleta. A couple appeared in court in Malta this week to respond to charges they embezzled money and spent it gambling. (Image: Times of Malta)

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

Representing the couple, who claim to be unemployed, is attorney Noel Bianco. He fought for bail for both of his clients, but was only halfway successful.

Intentional Deceit

The father was allegedly the main culprit, according to prosecutor Karl Muscat. He told the court that the mother knew what was taking place, but that the father, who pled 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 innocence. He also said that the father had access to the woman’s bank accounts.

He indicated that the investigation was still early and that all those who contributed money would have to testify. In addition, Puttinu Cares, which funds and organizes treatment for cancer patients abroad, will likely appear as witnesses.

Muscat said that during the interrogation, the father mentioned a bookmaker who could confirm that the money he was gambling was, in fact, his winnings from horse races bets. 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 spent.

Muscat claimed that the assistant to the bookmaker was a witness to the gambling transactions, and that the case depended on his testimony. He claimed that there was a possibility that the father might contact this witness to try to get him to change his testimony.

Bianco countered that the bookmaker has since passed away, reducing the credibility of the assistant. He said the father has made a complete turnaround in his life in recent years. He highlighted this by pointing out that a Criminal Court judge previously commuted a sentence that the father received in another criminal case.

One Free, One Stays in Jail

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

Muscat objected to bail for the father, pointing out that the couple faces accusations of defrauding not only independent entities, but their own son. He stated that there were many people and entities who donated money to their son’s treatment. But instead of using it for this purpose, they gambled everything away.

As a result, and because of his 26-page-long criminal record, the father is not trustworthy. Therefore, the court denied the bail request, remanding him into custody.

Out of concern for the child’s well-being, the mother received a free pass. She was released from custody with a €1,000 (US$1,050) deposit and a personal guarantee of €10,000 (US$10,506).

After the bail discussions ended, the defense requested that the court prohibit the publication of the names and addresses of the accused. However, it was almost a moot endeavor, as the family once appeared on a local talk show about the son’s cancer.

Nonetheless, the court granted the request to ban the publication of the names of the accused. At the same time, it ordered the freezing of the couple’s assets.

Next, the couple will return to court for sentencing. A date has not yet been set for that appearance.