The bank had called Father Seguna thinking the payments were a scam

Photo: Miguela Xuereb

HSBC had called father Luke Seguna to question him about payments made on payment processing sites associated with porn sites, believing he had been scammed, a police officer told the court on Monday.

The former parish priest of Marsaxlokk, Luke Seguna, was in court as criminal proceedings against him resumed. Seguna faces charges of money laundering and fraud, among others. He denies the charges.

Prosecution Inspector Lianne Bonello of the Anti-Money Laundering Squad was the first to speak. She detailed what happened the day Seguna was arrested.

On August 10, officers from the AML Team, Cybercrime Unit, and SOHO visited Seguna’s residence in Marsaxlokk. He was arrested in the early afternoon. Officers from the Asset Recovery Office were also on site.

Seguna provided his laptop password and removed his security features from his phone as officers seized his electronic equipment.

Police seized designer jewelry, watches and clothing, which were turned over to the Asset Recovery Office. They also found documentary evidence which included checkbooks.

His Land Rover, Paola’s garage and the parish church office were also searched by police.
Bonello told the court that she was present during Seguna’s second statement to police in which he exercised his right to silence. He was then brought before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on August 12.

Defense attorney Alex Scerri Herrera asked if an investigation had been opened into the case when cross-examining the witness. However, the witness replied in the negative stating that the whole matter was based on police work. Scerri Herrera asked him why in this case no investigation took place while in other cases it did.

“I will not compare this case with any other. I will not be cross-examined on anything that I did not testify about,” Bonello replied.

Next, Inspector Christopher Ellul wanted to make corrections to his previous testimony regarding the amounts he had mentioned in court. Between 2015 and May 2022, total revenue was corrected to €487,511 from €449,373. He also corrected the amount transferred from the parish church account to Seguna’s personal account by revising it to €15,821. Ellul told the court that €148,538.87 from Seguna, Revolut and Master Card’s HSBC credit card went to three payment processing websites associated with a live porn website.

A priest claimed that checks signed in his favor were a ‘reimbursement’

Agent Ryan Agius, who compiled the data obtained from different financial entities, then spoke. He explained that the investigation began in March after the financial police were informed of Seguna’s banking activity.

Court rules there is enough evidence for Luke Seguna to stand trial

Seguna’s reported income between 2016 and 2021 matched his salary from the Archdiocese, however, he held €487,511 in total income. The officer explained that some €200,000 came from deposits, while around €130,000 came from check deposits, among other things. He also observed that Seguna would issue checks and use Roman numerals to mark the date, but such a practice was seen on checks issued by Joseph Attard and Louis Caruana, when issuing checks in favor of Seguna. The police also observed that there were discrepancies in the signatures.

After checking with the health department, police determined that Caruana had been diagnosed with dementia.

In court, it also emerged that HSBC had sent for Seguna to ask if he had been scammed, as the bank had observed payments being made to payment processing websites associated with websites. pornographic. Agius said Seguna allegedly told the bank he was aware of the transactions.

The police also observed that the money for the parish church had drastically decreased over the years after Seguna was appointed parish priest.

The officer was present when Seguna first made a statement to police and recalled that the defendant said he would ask donors directly if they were making a personal donation to him or to the church. Asked how much money he had used for charity, Seguna could not answer.

When asked why transfers from the parish church account were made to his personal account, Seguna could not answer either.

He exercised his right to silence when questioned about Attard, Caruana, discrepancies in signatures, use of Roman numerals, among others.

Seguna told police he would need to check who had access to HSBC credit cards associated with his own personal account, a similar response was given in the case of using his Revolut account.

On his BOV ‘Masses’ account, Seguna insisted to the police that the bank asked him to name the account, which he did, supposedly naming it ‘masses’ because it was the first thing that came to mind. Police questioned him as to why there were transactions listed as “tombla”, “masses” and “arbular” made on this account, to which Seguna did not respond.
Asked about the decline in church income, Seguna said his predecessor carried out plans and blamed the pandemic. However, the gendarme pointed out that the decline was already recorded in 2017 – three years before the pandemic.

Seguna remained silent when asked about donations, the use of parish church money for humanitarian purposes, the use of his own money for charity, as well as any training he he received from the Archdiocese on the administration of parish funds.

Attorney Matthew Xuereb, who was also assisting Seguna, cross-examined the witness and suggested that Caruana left everything to the church and voluntary organizations in his will. The agent said he was unaware of Caruana’s wishes.

In cross-examination, Agius said the police had the dates Caruana was diagnosed with dementia. Xuereb asked the officer if they had consulted Caruana’s doctor, to which Bonello replied that it was not in his role. The police have the late Caruana’s medical records.

A court-appointed expert, Marco Ciliberti, presented his report to the court and informed the court that in the safe found in the office of the parish church, there were decorative jewels which are most likely used to adorn the statue of Our Lady of Pompeii during the feast.

The case was adjourned to October 24 at 11:30 a.m.

Inspector Christopher Ellul and Lianne Bonello led the prosecution, assisted by attorneys Andrea Zammit and Ramon Bonello Sladden from the Attorney General’s Office.

Seguna was assisted by attorneys Matthew Xuereb and Alex Scerri Herrera.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Christina Sutton appeared as civil parties.

Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras presided over the court.


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