Lawyer: Dar­ren De­bono has no con­nec­tion to re­cent ar­rest and €55 mil­lion seizure

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

The Ital­ian le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ac­cused fuel smug­gler Dar­ren De­bono has in­sisted that his client was not in­volved in any way what­so­ever with the lat­est ar­rest, made last week, and the seizure of €55 mil­lion in as­sets that Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties were evaded through a smug­gling and VAT scam as re­ported on Sun­day.

“Dar­ren De­bono has no con­nec­tion with the ar­rest that seized the €55 mil­lion in as­sets made last week by the Guardia di Fi­nanza of Varese and Mi­lan,” lawyer Luigi Latino told The Malta In­de­pen­dent.

Last Sun­day this news­room re­ported how an Ital­ian re­sid­ing in Lon­don, named as 51-year-old An­to­nio De­si­ata, had been ar­rested and that as­sets in the form of 29 mil­lion litres of fuel, 11 prop­er­ties in Genoa, Tri­este and Ab­bi­ate­grasso and a 14-me­tre yacht had been seized.

They are part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that has un­cov­ered a racket of fuel smug­gled out of the mostly law­less Libya, to Malta and then on­ward to Italy. Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that be­tween 2016 and 2017 over 350 mil­lion litres of fuel were smug­gled from Malta to Italy via 30 voy­ages carried out by Mal­tese tankers owned by a Mal­tese na­tional, which were resold at a cut price on the Ital­ian ‘white pump’ mar­ket later.

Latino con­tacted this news­room to spell out that, “As the lawyer of Dar­ren De­bono, my client is not in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­ing carried out by the Guardia di Fi­nanza of Varese and Mi­lano. I want to make it very clear that my client is not in­volved in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion at all.

He added, “To date no other Ital­ian ju­di­cial au­thor­ity has in any way im­pli­cated De­bono in any other in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­cept the one which is be­ing carried out by the Procura Della Repub­blica di Cata­nia.”

The lawyer’s in­sis­tence that his client was not in­volved in the fresh ac­cu­sa­tions im­plies there was at least an­other Mal­tese fuel smug­gler op­er­at­ing be­tween Libya, Malta and Italy, who has re­mained un­named, and who was op­er­at­ing

Fri­day’s ac­tion saw the Guardia di Fi­nanza of Varese car­ry­ing out an or­der for the pre-trial de­ten­tion of De­si­ata and the si­mul­ta­ne­ous seizure of as­sets worth over €55 mil­lion or­dered by the Courts of Mi­lan at the re­quest of Mi­lan’s Pub­lic Prose­cu­tor.

Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that be­tween 2016 and 2017 over 350 mil­lion litres of fuel were smug­gled from Malta to Italy via 30 voy­ages carried out by Mal­tese tankers.

Among the other sus­pects are the le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Oilchem srl – Lorenzo Sassi and Lu­ciano Seregni – and of Xcel Pe­tro­leum – An­gelo Ia­cobino – and ac­coun­tant Lu­ciano Bologna. The lat­ter is a pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing con­tracts at the Uni­ver­sity La Sapienza in Rome, a for­mer tax judge, and an at­tor­ney.

The Guardia di Fi­nanza of Varese and Mi­lan prose­cu­tor Paolo Filip­pini have iden­ti­fied Xcel Pe­tro­leum srl as, “The main ben­e­fi­ciary of the un­due tax ad­van­tages ob­tained through fic­ti­tious in­ter­po­si­tions of front com­pa­nies” such as the Oilchem srl, which, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors had no staff, its premises had no ad­dress plates, had no fur­ni­ture and only one com­puter, and was lo­cated in a 15 square me­tre cav­ity ad­ja­cent to an el­e­va­tor in a shop­ping cen­tre.

The in­ves­ti­gat­ing judge wrote: “De­si­ata’s com­pany, buy­ing at a value sig­nif­i­cantly lower than its com­peti­tors, was able to con­quer the na­tional sup­ply mar­ket through the sys­tem­atic eva­sion of VAT.”

The op­er­a­tion, dubbed, ‘XP’ – con­ducted with tele­phone in­ter­cep­tions, searches, seizures, anal­y­sis of com­puter me­dia, bank checks and ac­count­ing records – al­lowed in­ves­ti­ga­tors to place the Mi­lan com­pany op­er­at­ing from Genoa at the cen­tre of the fraud as the main ben­e­fi­ciary of the il­le­gal tax ad­van­tages ob­tained through the fic­ti­tious in­ter­po­si­tions of com­pa­nies that had no con­crete role in the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of the prod­uct.

Last Oc­to­ber, af­ter two years of phone tap­ping, the Ital­ian au­thor­i­ties moved in on the De­bonos. Dar­ren De­bono was ap­pre­hended in Lampe­dusa and Gor­don De­bono was ar­rested in Cata­nia. They are still out on bail, un­der house ar­rest and have been elec­tron­i­cally tagged af­ter their ar­rest in Italy in Oc­to­ber last year.

This is the full right of re­ply sent by De­bono’s lawyer, which was trans­lated from Ital­ian:

“As le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Dar­ren De­bono, fol­low­ing the printed ar­ti­cle pub­lished by The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day, in which there is a men­tion of an al­leged in­volve­ment of De­bono in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion carried out by the Guardia di Fi­nanza ( Cus­toms De­part­ment) of Varese and Mi­lan, I would like to high­light the ab­so­lute non- in­volve­ment of De­bono in the said is­sue. We do not know what el­e­ments led the Ital­ian and Mal­tese jour­nal­ists to for­mu­late such ac­cu­sa­tions against De­bono be­cause, as yet, no ju­di­cial au­thor­ity in Italy has at­trib­uted any­thing to De­bono other than the is­sues men­tioned by the Cata­nia prose­cu­tor.” Avv. Luigi Latino.

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