Sus­pected fraudster to stand trial

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

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.

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