The Malta Independent 3 August 2020, Monday

Former notary gets five-year prison sentence for fraud reduced by a year after appeal

Wednesday, 24 June 2020, 14:10 Last update: about 2 months ago

A 5 year prison sentence for fraud handed to a former notary who defrauded at least 17 clients, has been reduced by a year on appeal, after a court noted that he had refunded the majority of his victims.

In a judgment spanning 108 pages, Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera confirmed the 2018 finding of guilt with regards to Pierre Falzon on several charges, which include misappropriation and fraud. The judge also confirmed his perpetual interdiction and the revocation of his warrant. He had been forced to cede his warrant in 2016 over a separate case of fraud.

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Falzon had been ordered to refund at least €90,000.

He had transferred thousands of euros worth of taxes, succession duties and fees on properties to his wife's bank account. 

In one of many police investigations into his dealings, it had been alleged that he had falsified the signature of a mediator and a judge in a separation case, but these charges were later rejected by the court of first instance as it was not clear who had forged them. The court of criminal appeal emphasised that the behaviour of the former notary was deplorable and did not befit the notarial profession.

The charges were aggravated by the fact that Falzon had been a public officer when the crimes had been committed. 

"Certainly one does not expect to be cheated by the same notary who was supposed to safeguard the interests of the two parties, like in cases where after receiving monies, for example to pay taxes, this payment is not done." 

His actions had certainly cast an ugly shadow over the profession, said the court.

The judge took into account the fact that before the charges had been issued, and during the course of the criminal proceedings against him, Falzon had refunded some of the money and in some instances also registered contracts, as well as paying the taxes on them.

The court noted that in fraud cases, the established punishment is decreased by one or two grades if the guilty person repays all of the money taken, hence the reduction by one year of his sentence. This applied to those cases whereby the former notary had refunded the payments. 

But the court also observed that despite the passage of several years, there were still cases where the appellant had not fully repaid his victims. Besides jailing him for 4 years and confirming his striking off, Madame Justice Scerri Herrera also ordered him to reimburse all of his victims. 

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