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Six face human trafficking charges, denied bail

Three directors of a cleaning company were accused of human trafficking on Sunday and denied bail.

JF Group directors Peter Formosa, Matthew Peter Formosa and Sarah Formosa pleaded not guilty of trafficking vulnerable people who were employed by them.

Defence lawyer Edward Gatt argued that this was not a case of human trafficking and as one of the accused, Peter Formosa, is suffering from leukaemia, the three should be granted bail.

“Four days ago we had a person taken out of prison because he is unwell but someone who is still presumed innocent and who is suffering from leukaemia and who has to go undergo chemotherapy tomorrow will be denied bail?” Dr Gatt asked. The three could be confined to their home, he said. 

Inspector John Spiteri, who prosecuted, said that he disagreed on a number of points with Dr Gatt.

“We are not simply talking about the accused not giving them food, that is not the case here.They come here for the American Dream and what do they find? They find a situation that is worse than their own country,” the inspector said, insisting that there were still witnesses who are employees of the accused who had to testify.

Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace, who presided over the case, said that in light the fact that there were witnesses who might still come in contact with the accused, bail would not be granted.

The prosecution said that it had no problem with a request for Mr Formosa to be taken to Mater Dei Hospital.

Both sides agreed that the court should recommend that all three should be taken to the forensic unit at Mount Carmel Hospital.

Bail for all three was denied for fear of tampering with evidence as they could easily get in touch with witnesses.

Further arraignments

Meanwhile, three women were also denied bail after pleading not guilty to human trafficking charges.

The women, Mater Dei carer Cristina Cabrera, carer Elna Mangao and Jennyvie Bartolome, a marketing coordinator with the cleaning company, were also accused of helping traffic a number of people to Malta.

Ms Cabrera was assisted by legal aid lawyer Martin Fenech while Ms Mangao and Ms Bartolome were assisted by lawyer Marousca Debono.

Dr Fenech asked why his client was arrested, contesting the validity of the arrest.

Prosecuting officers said that their involvement saw they receiving loads  of money to bring people from their native country.

Inspector Spiteri said that the arrests came about after an inquiring magistrate heard 14 testimonies and she found enough evidence and traces of evidence that warranted the arrest of Ms Cabrera.
Dr Fenech insisted that his client has been in Malta for eight years and there have never been any problems.

“My client is not involved with the company. She only encouraged some of her friends to come over to Malta because the conditions here are better. Because the directors and officers may be charged with certain offences, we have someone else accused,”

“My client has been here in Malta for eight years and there have never been any problems. I don’t see why she should be denied her basic right to freedom when all she did was help some friends come over. This is how it happens all over the world…people are doing well and they tell their friends to come over,” Dr Fenech argued.

Mr Spiteri then pointed out that the accused resisted arrest and would not comply with police orders.
“This person was involved because she knew what the contracts were and she received money for her services,” the inspector argued.

Dr Debono also requested bail for her clients insisting that her clients have both been living in Malta for a long time.

On Ms Bartolome, she argued that she was just following orders and never had any part in any of the activities she was being accused of.

Prosecuting officers argued that there was a very good chance that they try to escape, insisting that having a child was not a valid enough reason for not escaping.

Bail was denied for the three women.

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