Government official charged with money laundering after €500K found at home

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A government official who served in Malta’s consulate in Shanghai was remanded in custody after being arraigned over money laundering, on Sunday.

Aldo Cutajar, 55, who is brother to the Head of Civil Service, Mario Cutajar, was arraigned along with his wife after the police found some €500,000 in cash during a raid on his home in Naxxar on Saturday.

The police said that there were between $300,000 and $400,000 in an account in his name in Dubai.

The couple was accused of money laundering, while Cutajar was also accused of committing a crime which he, as a government official, was duty-bound to prevent.

Cutajar replaced Sai Mizzi, wife of former disgraced minister Konrad Mizzi, in March 2018.

The Court issued a freezing order covering property that the defendant had bought through recent years and held other valuable items such as luxurious Rolex watches and expensive whiskeys.

Lawyer Roberta Bonello who appeared for the couple, made a request for bail which was turned down by Magistrate Josette Demicoli.

Police Inspector Lianne Bonello led the prosecution.

Opposition demands a public inquiry

The Opposition has demanded an inquiry into Aldo Cutajar’s re-employment with the civil service. In a statement, Opposition spokesperson for justice Jason Azzopardi made reference to a previous court sentence in which Cutajar who was at the time employed within the public service was found guilty of fraud in 2005.

The Court had imposed a perpetual interdiction on Cutajar barring him from ever joining the public service.

Azzopardi asked how a person who had been interdicted was re-employed with the civil service after his brother had been appointed as Head of Civil Service in March 2013, following the change of government. The Opposition noted that Aldo Cutajar should have never been allowed to work for the government according to law.

Head of Civil Service says that he’s not involved in the investigation

In a statement released by the Department of Information, the Head of Civil Service Mario Cutajar said that he was not involved in the police investigation into his brother. Mario Cutajar maintained that he was in no way linked or involved in Aldo Cutajar’s dealings.

Mario Cutajar said that disciplinary action procedures against Aldo Cutajar have been initiated in accordance to the Public Service Commission.

The Principal Permanent Secretary said that both in his public and private life he has always acted in an independent manner and was not involved in Cutajar’s appointment to Beijing and later in Shanghai.

Mario Cutajar stated that when he got to know his brother was under arrest, he formally wrote to the Police Commissioner offering access to information.

Repubblika calls for Mario Cutajar’s resignation

Rule of law NGO, Repubblika, has called for the resignation of Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar saying that his position was no longer tenable.

Reacting to Cutajar’s statement following his brother’s arraignment in which he said that he was not responsible for Aldo Cutajar’s wrongdoings, Repubblika said that it was no excuse.

In a statement on Sunday, Repubblika said that Mario Cutajar was being asked to resign because he is the head of the Civil Service and the Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as the Chairperson of the Internal Audit and Investigations Board ,which has the power to investigate financial abuses. 

Mario Cutajar heads the institution which allowed this to happen. This is a very serious institutional failure and Mario Cutajar is responsible for it, Repubblika said noting that Aldo Cutajar was delivered a perpetual interdiction by the courts in 2005. Despite this, in 2016, he was sent to work in the Embassy in China and in 2018, he replaced Sai Mizzi in Shanghai. 

The NGO warned that Malta risks getting grey-listed by Moneyval in the coming months which would spell job loss for many.

“Given the current situation, it is Robert Abela’s duty to clear Malta’s name and demand Mario Cutajar’s resignation.”

In a separate statement the NGO accused Norma Saliba who was appointed as head of PBS of becoming the state’s censor.

Repubblika condemned the national broadcaster for failing to report that Aldo Cutajar is brother to Mario Cutajar who holds the highest office within the public service.

The NGO reminded Saliba that she has a duty towards the general public in delivering the truth.