VAT department employee jailed for 2 years and 6 months

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A VAT department employee has been jailed for two years and six months after the Court of Appeal reduced her sentence and reconfirmed that she was guilty of money laundering and drug possession among other things.

Ruth Gatt had been found guilty in 2015. In 2019, she was charged with helping another VAT department employee, Nigel John Abela, to receive money from bribes to reduce VAT bills for third parties.

Gatt and Abela had formed an intimate relationship and had opened a joint bank account. The court had heard how Abela had asked Gatt to open an account in her name to hide money from his wife in view of ongoing separation proceedings.

Gatt had told the court that she was not aware of the sources of the cash deposited into her bank account. In 2015, Abela had admitted that he received between €100 and €5,000 in bribes. However, prosecuting inspector Angelo Gafà had said that there were people who had paid much more than that.

Gatt had told the police that another three VAT department employees were also involved in the scheme. He had mentioned his costly cocaine addiction which amounted to €300 daily.

Gatt was sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined €1,998.46. She appealed the sentence claiming that she was not aware of laundering money. The Court of Appeal noted that Gatt had signed cheques and passed them over to Abela as per instructions. Further, the Court of Appeal noted that Gatt was instrumental in Abela’s secrecy and the payments made to her account were an attempt to hide Abela’s identity.

She was also accused of passing on confidential information regarding VAT registered individuals, thus breaching professional secrecy. Quoting the law, the Court said that every person employed in public administration should consider documentation as private and confidential. Gatt argued that the information was not a secret because she passed the same information to other employees.

Arguing that three years imprisonment was an excessive sentence, the Court of Appeal reduced the sentence by six months.

Judge Giovanni Grixti presided over the case.

Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla prosecuted.