The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

Brian Tonna, Karl Cini and associates released on bail

Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 11:58 Last update: about 7 days ago
Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Manuel Castagna and their employee Katrin Bondin have been granted bail.

The four accused, who all pleaded not guilty, were charged with money laundering. 

In September 2020, Tonna and Cini lost their warrants to practice as accountants after the regulatory authority initiated disciplinary proceedings against them.

The board also suspended the registration of Nexia BT, BTI Management Limited and Nexia BT Advisory Services Limited.


The court had already imposed a wide-ranging freezing order on Tonna and Cini, their companies and linked business associates.

15:41 Thank you for following. A summary will appear shortly.

15:41 That is all for today. The next session will be held on 15 April at 9am.

15:41 Manuel Castagna is granted bail against a deposit of €30,000 and a personal guarantee of €45,000. The court imposed a curfew between 9pm and 7am and he will have to sign the bail book three times a week.

15:39 Katrin Bondin Carter is granted bail against a deposit of €15,000 and a personal guarantee of €15,000. The court imposed a curfew between 11pm and 8am and the accused has to sign twice a week at the Żejtun police station.

15:34 Karl Cini is also granted bail on the same conditions. He has to sign the bail book daily at the St Julian's police station.

15:33 The court gives Brian Tonna bail against a deposit of €60,000 and a personal guarantee of €90,000. He is prohibited from travelling overseas and is obliged to sign the bail book daily at the Żabbar police station. He is also prohibited from approaching the airport and must stay at least 10m away from the coast.

15:30 Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech is giving her decree.

15:25 AG lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo reiterates that investigations are progressing well but have not been concluded, which is why the prosecution is objecting to bail.

15:23 Lawyer Michael Sciriha for Manuel Castagna makes submissions. He notes that according to testimony given by an inspector, Castagna was not investigated in relation to the money laundering charges involving Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman. He says bail should be granted.

15:20 Lawyer Franco Debono for Katrin Bondin Carter says the court has acted efficiently in this case and heard a number of witnesses. He says his client should be given bail on the conditions laid down by the court.

15:15 The lawyer is arguing that there is no fear that evidence can be contaminated in this case.

15:10 Lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell, who is representing Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, is now making bail submissions. He reiterates that the AG is simply repeating the same arguments used in other cases linked to this. He points out that the magistrate has already decreed in favour of bail in the other cases.

15:04 AG lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo presents the Attorney General's reply to the request for bail. The magistrate gives the defence lawyers the chance to read it.

15:03 We're back in session

13:47 Three officers summoned could not appear in court today, she says. The court says that in the meantime the Attorney General will reply to the bail applications filed by the defence. The court adjourns for an hour. We resume at 2:45pm.

13:46 The magistrate motions to her deputy to hand her a diary. The discussions come to an end and the lawyers disperse back to their positions. Mercieca Rizzo dictates a note.

13:36 AG Lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo asks to approach the Bench. All the lawyers in the case walk up to the Magistrate's seat and discuss something out of earshot of the public and the press present in the courtroom

13:34 Schembri's wife had answered the door and called him to come out. The officer had explained how the searches were to be carried out. He tells the court that two iPhones, 2 iPads, a MacBook Pro and USB sticks were seized. Nothing was seized in a subsequent search at Bormla house. A third search, of Schembri's office at the Kasco factory returned a PC and a laptop. The police officer says that Schembri was given a receipt.

13:31 A police constable who had searched Keith Schembri's house in Mellieħa is next to testify. Another police constable from the FCID takes the stand. He had assisted as a fixed point outside the Kasco factory and had helped Inspector Keith Mallan conduct searches inside the Times of Malta building in Mrieħel.

13:29 The police officer had also analysed bank transactions carried out by Bondin Carter. He steps off the witness stand.

13:27 Another FCID AML constable takes the stand. On 21 September, he had been ordered to arrest "a certain Brian Tonna" which they did at 11:45pm. They had given him a copy of his arrest warrant, read out his rights and a copy of the attachment order. A search of his residence was concluded at around 1am. From there the officers went to Nexia BT offices in San Gwann. Electronics were seized. The search finished at around 2am. He says he had also carried out financial profiling on Katrin Bondin Carter. He presents the court with a copy of his report.

13:19 A police constable tells the court that two iPhones were among the electronics seized from Brian Tonna's property.

13:14 Like it did in yesterday's sitting that dealt with the cases of Keith Schembri and others, the court is hearing various police officers testifying on their involvement in the anti-money laundering operation.

13:12 Another sergeant takes the witness stand. He was present for Manuel Castagna's arrest. A search of his property took place and various objects including a mobile and laptops were seized.

13:11 A police sergeant from the AML unit within the Financial Crime Investigation Department takes the stand. She had been part of the police unit sent to arrest Kasco Group's financial controller Robert Zammit in Mosta. He was under quarantine and could not be arrested. The police gave him a copy of the attachment order and seized his phone. He did not sign the receipt as he was COVID-19 positive.

13:06 We're back in session

13:05 The magistrate suspends the sitting for five minutes.

13:05 Gatt says that on 7 March 2020, together with Inspector James Turner and other officers had gone to a property in Triq it-Turisti St Paul's Bay. They had contacted Matthew Pace and told him to come to the location. He was arrested and a search was carried out

13:04 Police constable Kersten Gatt from the Anti-Money Laundering Squad takes the stand. In September 2020, she had, together with other officers in the presence of Karl Cini searched a property in San Gwann. Electronics and documents relating to Nexia BT were seized as well as around €12,000 in cash. She also searched his office in San Gwann and seized a laptop and other items.

13:02 Another police officer, Francesco Farrugia, takes the stand. He had searched Three Cities Design in Bormla and later Kasco's factory in Bulebel. He was also present for Pace's arrest.

12:56 Turner wraps up his testimony and steps off the witness stand.

Turner had carried out the arrest and search warrant on Matthew Pace in St Paul's Bay. He says that Pace handed over his mobile phone and a laptop to police but had refused to give up his passwords.

12:52 Inspector James Turner takes the stand

12:50 Manuel Castagna is represented by lawyer Michael Scirha. Katrin Bondin Carter is represented by lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia. Karl Cini and Brian Tonna are represented lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell.

12:46 Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech emerges from her chambers and the sitting starts. She discusses something with the prosecution and defence lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell, who have approached the bench.

12:36 We are waiting for the compilation of evidence against Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Manuel Castagna and Katrin Bondin Carter to continue.


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