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