Parents of a Seven-Year-Old Cancer Patient Gambled Away Treatment Donations

  • The parents were accused of misappropriation, money laundering, and fraud
  • The suspects cooperated with police
  • A bookmaker is set to testify soon as the star witness 
  • The mother was granted bail, while the father was denied
Poker chips and handcuffs on a laptop with a gavel in the background
The parents of a cancer patient were accused of gambling away the child’s treatment donation fund. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Charitable contributions gambled away

Parents of a seven-year-old cancer patient in Malta have been accused of gambling away charitable donations for the child’s treatment.

misappropriation, money laundering, and fraud

The parents, 31 and 27, were arraigned before magistrate Astrid May Grima under the crimes of misappropriation, money laundering, and fraud on Thursday. Police inspector Tom Joe Farrugia and Attorney General prosecutor lawyer Karl Muscat spearheaded the proceedings.

The parents pleaded not guilty on all charges and sought release on bail. Neither is currently employed.

The defense and prosecution

The defense’s lawyer, Noel Bianco, made the case that the accused were being treated unfairly by the system.

“The accused are Maltese and cooperated with the police,” said Bianco. “I don’t see why bail should be refused.”

Bianco also made the case that keeping the parents in prison would cause psychological harm to the child. Both parents had posted bail previously and had not made any attempts to bribe witnesses.

the crimes were so irresponsibly heinous that they did not deserve bail

Muscat disagreed with Bianco’s sentiments, stating that the crimes were so irresponsibly heinous that they did not deserve bail.

“There were many entities and people who donated money to help fund their son’s treatment, but instead of using them for this purpose, they gambled it all away,” said Muscat.

The prosecution held special contempt against the father, who had a length criminal history.

“[The father’s] criminal record is 26 pages long and besides this, he is not trustworthy. It is clear that this court cannot have peace of mind if he is released from arrest,” said Muscat, who also noted that the investigation was still developing, and everyone who donated to the fund would need to be interviewed as a witness.

The prosecution eventually agreed to let the mother post bail to limit potential mental strain on the child. The case is still being heard in court.

Results in court

During an interrogation, the father revealed that his bookmaker could attest to him only gambling his personal money. The man stated that all of the money used had come from previous horse race winnings, and none of it had come via donations to his son’s fund.

The father also shared that the bookie had paid out his winnings, but that he had taken in more in losses during the same period. He is set to testify as the first witness in the next sitting.

However, Muscat unearthed that the father was not acting simply on his own accord.

Investigations revealed that when he gambled online, he wasn’t using his own money, but hers.”

“[The mother] was also aware of everything that was going on,” Muscat said. “Investigations revealed that when he gambled online, he wasn’t using his own money, but hers.”

Bianco acquiesced to the pressure on the father but did not stray from his stance on setting bail.

“This child is very attached to his parents,” said Bianco. “Both accused should benefit from bail, albeit with harsher conditions for [the father].”

Muscat opposed the plea, stating that the bookmaker’s assistant had been present during their interactions, and the case hinged on his testimony, fearing that the father would attempt to influence him if let out.

The court eventually settled on no bail for that father and €10,000 for the mother, €1,000 of which was paid upfront.

The defense then requested that the names of the suspects be withheld because they had appeared on a local talk show and were easily identifiable; the prosecution objected, but the court sided with the parents. 

The court also granted the prosecution’s request to freeze the parents’ assets.