Suspected fraudster to stand trial
An appeal against a jury verdict that declared alleged fraudster Jonathan Baldacchino mentally fit to stand trial has been declared null and void, allowing for criminal proceedings to continue unhindered.
30-year-old Jonathan Baldacchino is accused of defrauding Pail Nice out of his life savings worth €100,000. He told him that his father was a financial adviser who could secure attractive returns on financial investments. He showed him financial certificates under the name of Andrew Debono, operating with Global Capital Investments. After two years of being pestered, Mr Nice handed over the money.
The accused was actually an employee in a kebab shop and his employer rented an apartment from Global Capital Investments. Andrew Debono used to sign for receipts for rent and the accused allegedly took them to fashion certificates out of them.
Mr Nice demanded his returns, but the accused cut off all contact. He eventually tracked down Mr Baldacchino’s parents who told him that their son had mental health issues. He was subsequently prosecuted and his lawyers, Kris Busietta, Adrian Camilleri and Jason Azzopardi had requested the court to see if he was mentally fit to stand trial.
Back in June 2013, when Mr Baldacchino was arraigned, his lawyers argued that the accused lacked the criminal intent necessary to be found guilty of the charges levelled against him. This argument was based on a claim that he had been temporarily insane at the time.
A panel of psychiatrists was appointed to ascertain whether Mr Baldacchino’s was mentally fit. In their conclusions, in January 2014, it was said that “there is no evidence to show that at the time of the alleged crime, Mr Jonathan Baldacchino had been suffering from a condition that reduced his capacity,” meaning that he was not in a state of insanity or psychosis.
Following this, the accused objected to the experts’ conclusions and requested that the court have the issue decided by a minor jury (ġurin). The minor jury voted, by seven votes to two, that the accused was mentally fit to stand trial.
Mr Baldacchino, citing “irregularities” in the trial, filed an appeal against the verdict. His lawyers claimed that the law had been misapplied in this case. The Attorney General objected, saying that the law does not provide for the possibility of filing an appeal from a decision handed down by a minor jury. The court rejected this argument.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal considered that the law clearly provides that following a judgment, a note alerting the court of the intention to appeal must be filed immediately. The application itself must be then filed no later than three working days later.
The court noted that not only was there no note put forward notifying the courts of the intention to appeal, but that the application itself was filed no less than 15 working days after the judgment.
For this reason, the court said, the appeal was null and void and ordered that proceedings against Mr Baldacchino continue.