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Childcare centre licence revoked after operator is charged with human trafficking, running a brothel

Man with sunglasses and woman in sweater


Updated at 7:25pm with education ministry comment

Two childcare centres linked to a woman who was charged with running a brothel and trafficking at least one woman have had their licence revoked, MaltaToday is informed.

The Happy Faces childcare centres in Swieqi and Mosta operated by Francesca Caruana, 29, had their licence revoked by the education authorities and officials will on Friday morning officially inform the centres to shut down. Media reports indicate that the childcare centres were still operating on Thursday morning.

“The revocation order was issued yesterday evening after the court case came to light but given that the woman was remanded in custody there was difficulty in delivering the formal notification and officials will visit the centres on Friday morning to ensure they remain shut,” a spokesperson for the Education Ministry told MaltaToday.

Francesca Caruana was charged alongside her husband, Duncan Caruana, 35, on Wednesday on charges relating to human trafficking, running a brothel and living off the proceeds of prostitution.

The reason the case has captured the public’s attention was the fact that the court was told that Francesca Caruana runs two childcare centres, one in Swieqi and the other in Mosta, raising questions on the vetting process when issuing licences.

Duncan Caruana, who is married to Francesca, has several criminal convictions for aggravated theft and is currently awaiting trial on indictment in a drug trafficking case.

However, the ministry spokesperson clarified that the licence to operate the childcare centres was issued to Francesca Caruana alone and at the time she had a clean police record. “Francesca Caruana was the licence holder and she had a clean record.”

Duncan Caruana’s criminal past

Duncan Caruana was the subject of several criminal prosecutions, a number of which resulted in convictions.

In 2008, he had been charged over the theft of a motorcycle and riding it without a licence or insurance, but was subsequently acquitted of the theft charge after the court upheld the argument that the motorcycle had been abandoned.

A year later, Caruana had received a suspended sentence after being convicted together with others of mugging a 16-year-old friend of theirs and stealing €2,000 which the victim’s father had received from the sale of a property.

The court website also shows that an individual named Duncan Caruana is also facing criminal proceedings, together with others, on ecstasy trafficking charges dating back to 2010. No ID card number or address is specified in the judgments relating to different stages of these proceedings, which are all publicly available .

This newspaper has independently verified that Caruana had, in fact, been charged with drug trafficking, for which he was subsequently indicted and is awaiting trial. His assets are understood to be frozen in connection with this case, which would explain why Caruana, during his arraignment, told the court that he was unemployed, whilst his wife said she “worked at a childcare centre.”

In 2014, as part of a plea bargain, Caruana admitted to having shoplifted €2,000 worth of goods from a supermarket over the span of three months in 2009, for which he had received a suspended sentence.

Also in 2014, Caruana pleaded guilty to charges of having intentionally damaged a woman’s car, slightly injuring a man and breaching his bail conditions during an incident in Pjazza Joan Garden in Tarxien. He was placed on probation in that instance.

Again, in 2014, Caruana was cleared, this time, of charges relating to a hold up at a pastizzeria in January that year, together with another man.

A look at the couple’s accounts show Duncan Caruana regularly uploading pictures of his luxury Mercedes, in particular one photo of the car with one of the childcare centres in question in the background. He also flaunts other Mercedes cars but it is unclear whether these also belong to him.

 

EYES ON TRAFFICKING

This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from its original online location.

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