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MaltaToday 4 May 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 4 MAY 2022 2 NEWS MATTHEW AGIUS A court has ordered further investigations after jailing a 40-year-old Ħamrun man and handing his 26-year-old wife a suspended sentence on charges relating to money laundering and running brothels disguised as massage parlours. On Monday, Johan Sultana was jailed for three years on charg- es which included living off the earnings of prostitution, allowing his property to be used as a broth- el and heroin possession. Pawlina Cutajar was convicted of running a brothel, breaching a suspended sentence and recidivism. Over a number of sittings, the court, presided by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, had heard evidence showing that the couple had been running two brothels, one in Fgura and anoth- er in Mosta, and laundering the proceeds. Drugs Squad Inspector Jon- athan Cassar and Vice Squad inspector Roxanne Tabone had told the court how, in January 2019, Johan Sultana had been stopped by a police officer whilst driving his Mercedes. Just over half a gram of heroin was found in the car's centre console, to- gether with gloves, a balaclava mask and a hammer. Sultana had told the police that he was addicted to heroin, and provided the unlikely explana- tion that he would use the bala- clava and gloves when riding his motorcycle and that he kept the hammer in his car just in case he had an accident and needed to break his windows. He also claimed that he would use a weighing scale that was found in his car to weigh gold, despite not having any ties to related industries and living on benefits. €1460 in cash were found on Sultana's person, together with a further €3,600 at his residence and another €2,480 found in a purse which he told the police belonged to Pawlina Cutajar. Sul- tana claimed the cash found at his residence was intended to pay an insurance premium. The court was also told that messages concerning a "massage parlour" which was used for sex- ual encounters were discovered on his mobile phone, as well as a Facebook profile in his wife's name containing a large number of messages with third parties about sexual services. The Vice Squad had sent of- ficers to stake out the massage parlours and had noticed several people coming and going, as well as Cutajar handing over to anoth- er girl. One massage parlour client had told the police that he had paid Cutajar €50 for specific sexual services. Further interviews with a number of men had strength- ened the police's suspicions that the massage parlour was a front for a brothel This was corroborated by mes- sages and photos sent in Face- book and WhatsApp chats. During his interrogation, Sul- tana denied knowing about the brothel, but admitted to sending a number of messages about sales of gold items, using the same so- cial media profile. The investigation led the police to identify the owner of the mas- sage parlour, a certain Josianne Brincat, who told investigators that she had sold the premises to a couple from Hamrun, who were later identified as the accused, for €23,000 in cash. Cutajar had exercised her right to silence during her interroga- tion. The massage parlour's keys were found in her possession, to- gether with a VAT receipt book in the Fgura premises, which re- lated to another massage parlour in Mosta. Only two receipts had been issued. The prosecuting inspector ex- plained that the accused had also been charged with money laundering because although the property sale had been paid for in cash, the contract stated that it had been a donation. Cutajar had also failed to ex- plain the provenance of the cash found in her possession, although an inheritance had been men- tioned. The court also noted that it had not been provided with an explanation for Sultana's lavish lifestyle, affording property in- vestments, and purchases of gold and drugs. His explanation that his mother or her partner had financed his drug habit did not wash with the court. "The court reasons that when the transaction relating to the sale of the premises was fraud- ulently concealed as a donation, the intention had been to avoid Sultana and possibly also the no- tary himself, from having to fulfil their legal obligation to explain the provenance of the funds used to purchase the Fgura property, as part of due diligence checks required by anti-money launder- ing laws. The magistrate ordered a copy of the judgement be served on the Director General for Social Services in view of the fact that during the hearing of the case it had emerged that Sultana had been receiving social benefits. The court also ordered that the Tax Commissioner be notified about the decision, in order to in- vestigate discrepancies in capital gains tax due on the transfer of the premises. The Commissioner of Police was also ordered to investigate the owner of the premises, Jo- sianne Brincat and to establish whether there were sufficient grounds to charge her and Nota- ry Joseph Tabone with criminal offences in view of the fact that the premises had been paid for in cash, although the contract stated that it had been donated, and the fact that Cutajar had not explained the provenance of the cash discovered on the property. Back in court Cutajar was once again in court on Tuesday. She had just been convicted of running a brothel, breaching a suspended sentence and recidivism yesterday, for which she was handed a four- month prison sentence, sus- pended for two years, when she allegedly began to shout at the prosecuting police inspectors and the magistrate, telling them she would "pay them back." Inspectors Daryl Borg and Ga- briel Micallef charged the wom- an with insulting and threatening the magistrate during the exer- cise of her judicial duties and do- ing the same to police inspectors Jonathan Cassar and Roxanne Tabone who were also discharg- ing their duties. Cutajar was also accused of dis- obeying legitimate orders, attack- ing the police officers and the magistrate, voluntarily breaching the peace, blaspheming in public and recidivism. During the woman's arraign- ment before Magistrate Monica Vella on Tuesday, the court was told that Cutajar had reacted vi- olently to being found guilty of running a brothel. As proceedings began, lawyer Roberto Montalto dictated a note, in which he informed the court that his client was mak- ing "a full and unconditional apology" to everyone involved, "to magistrate Donatella Fren- do Dimech and in particular the Inspectors Jonathan Cassar and Roxanne Tabone." "On a personal level, she is apol- ogising to Inspectors Jonathan Cassar and Roxanne Tabone, to who her inconsult words and ac- tions were directly addressed." The lawyer said Cutajar under- stood that the two police officers were simply doing their duty and nothing else. Magistrate Vella upheld the woman's bail request, explaining to her that she was to sign a bail book at the times and on the days stipulated by the court and also observe a curfew. Cutajar's release from arrest was secured by a personal guar- antee of €10,000. Under no cir- cumstances was she to approach or molest the magistrate or the police inspectors involved, warned the court. A temporary protection order was also issued pending these proceedings in fa- vour of the magistrate and police inspectors. Couple sentenced for running massage parlour brothels MALTA is being affected by high wholesale prices for electricity that is imported from Italy via the interconnector, Miriam Dalli told a meeting of EU energy ministers that discussed the impact of Rus- sia's invasion of Ukraine. The Energy Minister said that when the provision of electricity was in danger, solidarity should be shown with everyone without any distinction. "Malta's geography makes the energy impacts more pronounced and challenging to address. The energy market disruptions affect freight costs, leading to higher prices and inflationary pressures. Exacerbating the issue further is the lack of choice of transport for Malta's businesses, where all raw materials have to be imported", Dalli said. The minister said that Malta sup- ported a coordinated approach in these particular circumstances; however, member states should be allowed a degree of flexibility to best address their needs. She also highlighted the importance of all EU countries being linked to the European energy grid. Dalli was in Brussels at a meet- ing of energy ministers to discuss the war and the impact it is hav- ing on the energy sector. The meeting addressed the EU's preparedness in the event of a supply crisis. Dalli also said that it was impor- tant to scale up investment in re- newable energy. Miriam Dalli says Malta's energy sector was impacted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine

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