Landmark Judgment for Money Laundering as Freezing Order Request for Former Pilatus Bank Manager Denied

Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera has just rendered a judgment that could have major repercussions on future money laundering cases.

Earlier this month, Pilatus Bank’s former compliance and litigation manager Claude-Ann Sant Fournier was charged with money laundering with the bank itself.

The prosecution, as it usually does in these cases, asked the court to freeze its assets, as well as those of the bank, but Sant Fournier’s lawyers Stefano Filletti and Kathleen Grima objected.

By police admission, Filletti argued, the only funds found in Sant Fournier’s account were deposits from his salary, and therefore, the request to freeze his money amounted to a “vexatious” request.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud ruled in favor of the defense and the attorney general’s office quickly appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

In a decision released today, Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera confirmed the magistrate’s judgment.

Explaining her reasoning, she said that the whole point of freezing orders is to prevent suspects from using assets that have come from criminal activity so that the state can confiscate those assets if found guilty.

In the event that the accused has spent the money before being found guilty, the law allows the courts to fine them in an amount equal to the money spent.

“At such an early stage, where the court has not yet decided to place the accused under indictment, the court considers that a freezing order should not apply to Sant Fournier because, according to the testimony of the prosecution, she is not in possession of any assets derived from criminal activity, ”said Scerri Herrera.

“Therefore, a freezing order will not act as a guarantee in favor of the state’s ability to recover the assets generated by criminal activities, but will only cause it great harm, with the state interfering in its use of legally acquired assets. “

She argued that this would be disproportionate to the constitutional right people enjoy over their own property.

It is the first time that a Maltese court has refused a freezing order against a person charged in a personal capacity and the decision is upheld on appeal.

Do you agree with this decision?

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