Financial transactions show big purchases, sports betting activity
Two parents are under police investigation for being suspected of misappropriating donations intended to fund their child's expensive medical treatment.
The police's Financial Crime Investigation Department sources confirmed that over the past year, they have been investigating the suspected misuse of tens of thousands of euros in charitable donations.
Tagged as "high-profile", the case is about the parents of a young child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, who are strongly believed to have misappropriated donations meant to pay for overseas medical treatment.
However, investigators say that due to the fact that donations were given in small amounts, it is proving difficult to build a criminal case against the suspected fraudsters.
A senior officer said, "We are talking about donations to individuals raising money. So, one has to prove that the cash donated was not used for that specific purpose. This isn't like when you have a contractual agreement that is not honored. Some gave €2, €5, others €100, but there is no account to check this against."
Sources say the parents claimed they were in need of funds to finance their child's medical treatment in the UK, but it turned out that most of the treatment was provided absolutely free of charge. Other than that, their travel and accommodation to the UK was also largely financed by NGO Puttinu Cares.
While it is true that a part of the donations given to the family really did go to covering the cost of overseas treatment and living expenses, the police have found out that there were financial transactions linked to sports betting and there was also a relatively big cash purchase made by the child's parents.
It turns out that this is not the first of such cases investigated by police in recent years.
In the past five years, there were two similar cases that have also been reported to the police after donors and the regulator of voluntary organizations reported suspicions of irregularities. However, those cases were left unsolved because police were unable to gather strong enough evidence.
Recently, the country's charity laws were put in the spotlight after the government decided to redraft an attempt to close legislative loopholes that could make NGOs and charities vulnerable to money laundering.
Described as excessive by concerned NGOs, the rules would have required charity groups and individuals to first seek the approval of the commissioner of voluntary organizations in various steps involved in raising funds.
Aside from the need to apply for a permit that would only expire in a mere six months, those looking to use donation boxes for collections will have to pick them up from the office of the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector and return there to count the money under close supervision.