Posted on: May 27, 2022, 06:59h.
Last updated on: May 27, 2022, 08:59h.
Jason Farrugia has had his first day in court, and it didn’t go well. The former chief technology officer for the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) can’t escape allegations he misused sensitive data and facilitated money laundering.
The 34-year-old Farrugia resigned from his job last December after 10 years when the MGA caught him manipulating the regulator’s data. Soon after, police arrested him.
In his court appearance this past Wednesday, he found out what comes next. The judge in the case, magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace, ordered him to jail with no chance of bail, according to The Times of Malta.
However, Farrugia wasn’t alone. Sitting beside him and also facing charges was his wife, Christine. Both attempted to plead not guilty to the accusations, but lost. Like her husband, Christine Farrugia will be held without bail.
Prosecutors have charged both with money laundering. Jason was charged separately with a host of other alleged offenses, including extortion and accepting bribes. He also faces allegations of disclosing sensitive and confidential information, as well as misuse of MGA property. The latter stems from his repeated access to the information using MGA computers.
The court was not given any details about the investigation that led to Farrugia’s arrest. However, sources inside the regulator claimed that he was being suspected of irregular access to commercially sensitive and confidential information at the authority.
Police investigations into the former MGA official were ongoing for six months before Farrugia found out that he was a target. Mario Buttigieg, his lawyer, told the court that his involvement extends from the very beginning, when the investigation first started.
The wife’s lawyer, Lennox Vella, strongly appealed for bail. She highlighted the fact that the couple had a three-month-old baby and another one-and-a-half-year-old child. Keeping Christine in custody would only lead to both ending in the care of third parties.
Vella tried to impress upon the judge her client’s innocence, emphasizing that she had never even stepped inside a courtroom for any type of infraction. Magistrate Stafrace, however, determined that remanding her into custody was the best option.
Case Remains Tightly Sealed
All evidence in the case is in the records of the magisterial inquiry, reducing the possibility of tampering. During the court appearance, little discussion occurred about the nature of the investigation or the evidence.
In addition, prosecutors and the courts aren’t releasing details about the nature of the information Farrugia allegedly accessed and what he did with it. Furthermore, throughout all of these months, he has had no contact with any witnesses.
The court inquiry and the police investigation are still underway. As a result, there could be additional charges, as well as more suspects and witnesses.
The prosecution argued that there is still a chance for evidence tampering, which may be part of the reason no one is divulging many of the details. Because of the sensitive nature of the case, the court granted the prosecution permission to freeze all of the couple’s assets.
Motives Still Unclear
There are several possible scenarios that may have led Farrugia to do what he did, assuming the charges are legitimate. The MGA has been the subject of multiple criticisms over the past few years. There have been allegations of wrongdoing, financial mismanagement, corruption, and more plaguing the regulator.
As such, perhaps Farrugia was working to protect the MGA, but became the scapegoat when investigators determined something was going on. Ultimately, the theory doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
There could also be a connection to Yorgen Fenech, the former casino owner who allegedly ordered the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. She was investigating a case of corruption that spanned the entirety of Malta at the time. While that was years before Farrugia’s alleged criminal activity, perhaps he was purging records and helping someone else avoid punishment.
Perhaps Farrugia was acting alone. Maybe he thought he found a way to redirect MGA funds for his personal benefit. Or, maybe he was helping a casino operator, or operators, rig reports so they didn’t have to give up so much revenue.
There’s still one other possibility that has to be considered. Perhaps the Farrugias are completely innocent.