Tears in court over deposit dispute
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Tears in court over deposit dispute

A Bank of Valletta safety deposit bungle left a man in tears on the witness stand yesterday, as he fretted about having risked losing €40,000 set aside for his disabled daughter.

Retired photographer Anthony Mangion told a court yesterday that in April 2010 he had opened a safety deposit box at BOV’s San Ġwann branch and put the money in it.

When he returned to the box two weeks later, besides his €40,000 – untouched and still wrapped – he also found a stash of American dollars.

Mr Mangion said he had immediately reported the matter to the bank.

It transpired that BOV had mistakenly given Mr Mangion a safety deposit box belonging to Victor and Maria Xuereb, two local entrepreneurs who had been using it for 23 years.

Both the Mangion and Xuereb families claimed the €40,000 was theirs and the bank then settled the matter privately.

It also demoted the branch’s cash custodian, Gaetano Falzon. Mr Falzon later filed a claim for unfair demotion against the bank, saying a software glitch was to blame for the error.

An anonymous letter sent to the Office of the Prime Minister, calling for the police to investigate, made the matter public.

The police are now charging the Xuerebs with misappropriating €40,000 from the bank by accepting its settlement.

Mr Mangion yesterday wept as he told the courtroom he and his wife had set the money aside to care for their adopted daughter, who lives with cerebral palsy.

He said that he had refused the bank’s offer of a new safety deposit box.

“All my money was there, untouched, but someone else had a key and I could have lost everything,” he told Magistrate Carol Peralta, adding he had never been given a proper explanation for the mix-up.

Bank lawyer Antonio Azzopardi’s request to have the case heard behind closed doors due to “security concerns” was rejected by Magistrate Peralta.

The case was adjourned to next March, when the defendants are set to take the stand.

“They will be crying too,” defence counsel Michael Sciriha told the magistrate. “My clients are being made out to be criminals because of the bank’s error.”

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