Valletta Parish Priest to be arraigned in Court regarding the theft of Sacred and religious art worth €80,000
Next Monday, the day after the feast of St. Augustine in Valletta, the Parish Priest of St. Augustine Church, Fr. Deo Debono is to be arraigned in Court and charged with the theft of a number of paintings, engravings and Sacred art works worth about € 80,000. Sources told TVM that these items were taken out of the convent by stealth and then sold for a much lower value.
The theft of paintings and ecclesiastical property belonging to St Augustinian Church and Priory in Valletta is likely to have been carried out earlier this year and it was executed so deliberately and intentionally that whoever carried it out hung other paintings in their stead. It appears that in January, the archivist Father Alex Cauchi realised that the hanging paintings were false and did not correspond with the inventory of the valuables contained in the convent.
TVM is informed that Police from the Cultural Property Section tracked down Fr Deo Debono after having received information in recent days about another case regarding the theft of a thurible and incense holder from the monastery of cloistered nuns dedicated to St. Catherine, which are currently in the possession of an antiques dealer. Sources revealed that this person had told the Police that s/he had bought the items from Fr. Deo Debono for just over € 2,000.
The police investigation led by Inspector Savior Baldacchino had recently resulted in the discovery of some of the paintings and engravings that were reported stolen on 8 February. Sources said that Police had at least seven pieces of Sacred art items which were expected to be deposited in Court at the beginning of next week on the same day of Fr. Debono’s arraignment.
Sources explained that Fr Deo Debono had admitted his involvement to the Police. The priest is currently on police bail coinciding perfectly with the feast of St. Augustine – his Parish for the last five years, which is being celebrated this week. He will be arraigned after the weekend is over. Just a few hours ago, he uploaded details of the festival program on Facebook, including the unveiling of a statue representing St. Augustine with St. Joseph Patron of the Augustinian Order, commemorating the 150th anniversary since the Church declared him Patron of the Order.
TVM has known that the last couple of day led to developments in the investigations of this case, which was revealed first by TVM last February. Yesterday, at noon, a TVM journalist went to the Augustinian convent in Valletta and spoke to Fr. Deo Debono. The Parish Priest said that he was contacted by the Police who told him that a number of objects had been discovered which had possibly been stolen from the convent. The Parish Priest told the journalist that he was waiting for the Police to get back to him so that he could verify whether these items in fact belonged to the Order. Fr. Debono however went on to say that at the moment he was very busy with the feast of St. Augustine which is being celebrated next Sunday.