Annual stipend under freezing order frozen at 1994 rate

Lawyers for fuel trader Gordon Debono, who is facing charges of money laundering and an ensuing general asset freeze, say the annual stipend given to the accused does not guarantee a ‘decent life’.

Debono and his wife Yvette were arrested in November 2020 and charged with laundering millions of euros after a police crackdown.

Both have pleaded not guilty to charges brought against them in their capacity as directors of 11 companies, all subject to freezing orders.

Under the anti-money laundering legislation in force, a person subject to such an order on all property, movable and immovable including those held by third parties, benefits from an annual indemnity of €13,976.24.

This amount had been fixed in 1994, then in Maltese read (Lm6,000) upon enactment of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

This law included a provision aimed at ensuring that the defendant and his family could lead “a decent life”, within the limits of the freezing order while the criminal proceedings continued.

This meant that, according to the legislator, the amount deemed “sufficient” in 1994, was still so 28 years later, Debono’s lawyers say in a legal protest filed against the attorney general, the state’s attorney and the Justice Ministry.

Not only has the standard of living changed, but the law makes no distinction between one defendant and another, the lawyers said, adding that a person could have dependent families.

And a person might have to incur necessary expenses related to illness, daily necessities as well as legal fees related to court proceedings.

Such expenses were certainly not capricious, the lawyers pointed out.

The law regulating wage increases clearly showed that over a period of 26 years, basic necessities alone had registered an increase of €4,707.04 per person.

Yet the legal compensation awarded to a person subject to a freezing order remained unchanged, the lawyers continued.

This situation seriously undermines the defendant’s fundamental rights to the enjoyment of private property as well as the right to a fair trial, and must be addressed without delay, the lawyers said, calling for necessary legislative changes “to remedy the such an anomaly as soon as possible”. possible”.

The lawyers Roberto Montalto, Alfred Abela, Ishmael Psaila and René’ Darmanin signed the judicial protest which was filed before the first chamber of the civil court in its constitutional jurisdiction.

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