A former police officer who until recently led anti-money laundering investigations is now working with a lawyer his unit once called in to question over an alleged financial foul play.
Frank Anthony Tabone was Superintendent in the Financial Crimes Investigations Division and in charge of the Anti-Money Laundering Unit.
He now works with criminal defense attorney Arthur Azzopardi.
Tabone, a veteran officer, was mentioned as a favorite to become deputy commissioner in charge of the entire department. However, he decided to retire at the end of June, the latest in a series of departures from one of the toughest posts in the squad.
Just a few weeks later, the civil servant, who graduated as a lawyer in 2018, landed on his feet and now works at the law firm Abela Borg & Associates. The firm’s managing partner is Azzopardi, a well-known criminal defense attorney who was interrogated by Tabone’s unit two years ago.
In November 2020, Azzopardi was among a group of people questioned as part of a police crackdown on smuggling. The lawyer was interrogated cautiously and held overnight before being released on police bail.
Azzopardi has never been charged in relation to this or any other investigation and insists he fully cooperated with the police and assisted them in their investigation.
I have decided to leave the Maltese Police at the end of June 2022 for personal reasons– Former Superintendent Frank Anthony Tabone
The investigation in question was linked to a massive smuggling ring between Malta and Libya. Two former national team footballers, Darren Debono and Jeffrey Chetcuti, were eventually charged in court.
Shortly thereafter, fuel dealer Gordon Debono and his associates were also charged with money laundering in connection with the alleged smuggling activities.
Azzopardi was also in the headlines last year when Maltese times reported how a months-long investigation into the now-shuttered Satabank had reported “highly suspicious” payments to the same company by suspected fuel smugglers and Azzopardi.
Again, Azzopardi was adamant that there was nothing irregular, adding that the funds were not his own but belonged to a client and that all necessary due diligence had been carried out.
“Avoiding Conflicts of Interest”
In the meantime, Tabone told Maltese times that due to his previous position as Superintendent in Charge of the Money Laundering Division, he would not handle money laundering and financial crime cases in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest.
While confirming he was already in charge of the unit when Azzopardi was questioned at FCID offices, Tabone said he had no intention of leaving the force at this point.
“In fact, in 2021 I applied for the appointment of Deputy Commissioner to the Maltese Police and attended the interview that took place earlier this year. I have decided to leave the Maltese Police at the end of June 2022 for personal reasons,” he said.
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