The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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Priest in alleged €500,000 fraud claims fair trial breach after laptop goes missing

Friday, 23 February 2024, 12:11 Last update: about 3 months ago

Former Marsaxlokk parish priest Luke Seguna is claiming that a laptop and other evidence in ongoing criminal proceedings in which he is charged with fraud, have gone missing from the courts exhibits strongroom.

Seguna is accused of money laundering, as well as defrauding and misappropriating some €500,000 from 150 parishioners, over the span of a decade. The priest is denying the charges.

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Seguna’s lawyers filed an application to the First Hall of the Civil Court, in its Constitutional jurisdiction, in which they also state that some of the evidence collected by the police at the start of the investigation had never been handed to the experts appointed by the court to examine them.

The application was filed following a hearing in the criminal case on Tuesday, during which the court was told that Seguna’s MacBook Pro, which had been exhibited by the prosecution in June last year, could not be found in the law courts’ exhibit room. The court-appointed expert in question, Keith Cutajar, told Magistrate Rachel Montebello that when he went to collect the device in order to examine it, the exhibits officer told him “we can’t find the laptop”.

The court ordered that the exhibits officer be summoned to testify at the next sitting, together with the police officer who originally exhibited the device.

In an urgent application filed in the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction against the Attorney General, the State Advocate, the Commissioner of Police and the Registrar of the Criminal Court, Seguna claimed that his right to a fair trial had been breached when the laptop went missing. He and other documentary evidence seized by the police were also never passed on to the inquiring magistrate, in blatant breach of the basic responsibility of the investigating officer to preserve the chain of custody of such evidence.

Lawyers Jose Herrera, Matthew Xuereb and David Camilleri, assisting Seguna, argued that it was unacceptable that the police held on to the device for months, instead of consigning it to the inquiring magistrate and then exhibiting data which had been extracted from it under the guise of “police work,” during the compilation of evidence.

The laptop and other documents Seguna claims to have been seized by the police from his home were important to prove his innocence, said the lawyers, who pointed out that the laptop had been analysed by the police, not court experts, which left doubts as to what the police had done to it.

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