Friday, 12 February 2010

Marrache & Co Gibraltar bank account supposed to hold the company’s cash in fact had a balance of less than nine Euros and no credit facility.

14:41 |

Two senior executives at a prominent Gibraltar law firm, brothers Benjamin and Solomon Marrache, appeared before the Magistrates Court yesterday charged with false accounting in respect of E1.8m of client money.The two men were arrested on Tuesday and spent the night in police cells before being ferried to court in a police van.The two Marrache brothers were ushered by police through a side entrance to Central Police station just before 10am and appeared before the magistrate in a crowded courthouse a short while later.Attorney General Ricky Rhoda, appearing for the Crown, urged the magistrate to impose stringent bail conditions for fear that the two men might flee the jurisdiction.Keith Azopardi, the defence lawyer representing the Marrache brothers together with Samantha Sacramento, said there was no risk of them leaving Gibraltar because both were of previous good character and had strong family ties here.Stipendiary Magistrate Charles Pitto granted bail but set tough conditions on each defendant, in the form of two sureties to the value of £300,000 for each brother. The court also set a further financial condition of £150,000 in their own recognizance for each defendant.In simple terms, failure to appear at future court hearings could cost the defendants and their guarantors up to £900,000 in total.Both men also had to hand in their travel documents and agree to reside at their respective family homes, as well as report twice weekly to police.By the end of the day yesterday, a number of persons had stepped up to provide £600,000 in sureties for the release of the two men.At an hour-long hearing in the evening, Mr Pitto questioned the guarantors closely but accepted the sureties. The two brothers were released from custody later that evening.Yesterday’s developments in court were the opening shots in what will undoubtedly develop into a lengthy and complex case.Mr Rhoda said the sums of money involved “could be quite substantial”.He said the two men were currently facing “holding charges” and that more charges could follow at a later stage. The Attorney General also said there could be further arrests as a result of an ongoing police investigation.Earlier this week police raided several commercial and residential properties linked to Marrache & Co and seized documents and computers.Prosecutors allege that in January this year, the brothers falsified documents to conceal a shortfall of E1.8m of funds belonging to a company called Portino Comercio Internacional. One document, a letter signed by Solomon Marrache, purported to show that the money was held by the brothers on the client’s behalf. Another document, a letter signed by Benjamin Marrache, purported to give authority to Natwest bank to transfer the client’s money to a bank in Ireland.But prosecutors said that the Gibraltar bank account supposed to hold the company’s cash in fact had a balance of less than nine Euros and no credit facility.

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