The Malta Independent 8 December 2019, Sunday

Darren Debono not presented to MFA as Senglea AFC committee member despite election

Sunday, 21 July 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 6 months ago

Alleged fuel smuggler Darren Debono has not been presented to the Malta Football Association by Premier League side Senglea Athletic FC as a committee member, despite the fact that he was elected to the committee during the club’s most recent AGM.

Confirmed by club president Reuben Debono on Replay Ikompli – which airs on NET FM, the news comes despite Darren Debono’s prominent role in strengthening the club’s squad going into the new season.

Darren Debono joined Senglea Athletic FC’s committee in the club’s Annual General Meeting early in June, with NET Television’s Replay, One TV’s L-Argument, and TVM Sport all reporting his appointment even though his name is absent from the club’s official post-AGM announcement.  He was later pictured alongside Reuben Debono when the club appointed their coaching staff for the forthcoming season.

As standard procedure, all clubs must present their committees to the Malta Football Association who will then vet and verify each member, with people who have a criminal record not being allowed to form part of any club committee.

Darren Debono is of course no stranger to football; he represented Malta at international level 56 times between 1996 and 2002 and had long spells playing with established clubs Sliema Wanderers and Valletta FC.

He is, however, now facing serious allegations of having been involved in a fuel smuggling racket between Libya, Italy, and Malta.

Sources within the MFA had told The Malta Independent last month, when the newspaper first reported Darren Debono’s involvement within the club, that while he has no criminal record, “the alleged criminality is huge”.

Debono was arrested on the island of Lampedusa in October 2017 and was subsequently charged in connection with a fuel trafficking operation involving Libya, Italy, and Malta. He was arrested following an investigation by Italian police into a racket where Libyan ‘smuggling king’ Fahmi Bin Khalifa supplied smuggled Libyan fuel through Debono’s ships, to an Italian merchant. Those arrested also included Maltese businessman Gordon Debono, who was arrested in Catania, and Nicola Orazio Romeo, said to be a Sicilian Mafia associate.

Last September, Debono’s restaurant was also black-listed by the US Treasury Department after Debono himself was blacklisted the previous February. He has since been released on bail and last November was allowed to return to Malta after being released from house arrest in Sicily due to delays in the commencement of his trial.

Replay report that even though he will not have the same involvement as had originally been planned by the club, Darren Debono will still remain “close to the club” even due to the fact that his son now plays with them.

Indeed, the fact that he has not been presented as part of the club’s committee also in no way affects the position of Darren Debono’s son – Dejan Debono – who is a new signing with the club and is a player with strong potential in his own right, having already debuted in the Premier League despite being only 18 years of age, and having represented that Maltese national team at U-19 and U-17 levels.

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