Lawyer Stefano Filletti represented Mr Vella as the defence council while Inspector Yvonne Farrugia prosecuted.
A 58-year-old man accused of forging his estranged wife’s signature to withdraw money for their daughter’s wedding gift has been handed a conditional discharge after being cleared of fraud and falsifying documents and guilty of making fraudulent gain.
Magistrate Neville Camilleri had heard Inspector Yvonne Farrugia explain how Albert Vella’s estranged wife Catherine had filed a criminal complaint against her former husband, claiming that she had found out through separation proceedings that he had taken the money without her permission.
In his statement to the police, Vella had said that the policy had been taken out when the couple were still together and had been saved up for their children’s weddings.
The money had been given to his daughter, said the accused, claiming that his wife had also signed the documents allowing him to withdraw the money.
But Catherine Vella denied signing the documents that authorised him to withdraw the money and had claimed that her daughter had told her that the accused had given her some money. It emerged that she had received around €2,000. The fate of the remainder of the money is a mystery.
In her testimony before the court, the woman had explained that her marriage to the accused had ended over 10 years before the incident and the separation case had been dragging on for almost as long.
A calligraphy expert had been appointed to compare the signature of the accused with that on the withdrawal form, but his conclusions were not taken into consideration after the defence pointed out to the court that he should have compared it to that of the wife, not the accused.
Vella was found not guilty of fraud and forgery of documents, but convicted of “other fraudulent gain.” The Court noted his relatively clean criminal record and the fact that part of the money he received had been given to his daughter as a wedding present. It also factored in the state of the accused’s marriage and the separation proceedings which had been ongoing at the time.
After taking all this into consideration, Magistrate Camilleri was of the opinion that a prison sentence would not be ideal for a man who was almost 60 years old and whose criminal record was relatively clean.
Taking care to point out the gravity of the offence which the man had committed, the court conditionally discharged Vella for three years.