Mr Lu dropped his wallet at the parking lot reserved for rental cars at MIA. Photos: Matthew Mirabelli
Lu Guoping’s first visit to Malta started off on the wrong foot when he lost his wallet at Malta International Airport parking lot on Saturday night. Read more Malta Airport lost and found and Malta Airport lost property
Still, the ugly situation took a turn for the better when the man who picked up his wallet and pocketed the €5,000 in cash was identified, arrested and charged in court.
Mr Lu, 55, a Canadian national of Chinese origin who lives in Cologne, Germany, was at a loss for words of praise for the MIA security officers and the police at the airport, who, with an abundant dose of assistance from technology in the form of closed-circuit cameras, helped him to recover the cash.
The wallet and the rest of its contents, including bank cards, his identity cards and passport, were thrown into a rubbish bin on the airport ring road and soon collected by the refuse truck.
Mr Lu lost the wallet when it fell out of his bag as he was checking his rental car for dents and scratches at the MIA car park. He only realised it was missing on Sunday morning and rushed to the airport to report it.
He said Police Sergeant Hadrian Sultana and MIA senior security officer Aldo Spiteri took the matter in hand and went through almost five hours of CCTV footage in a bid to get to the bottom of it.
Their efforts paid off when they saw a man picking up the wallet and walking away at 1.03am. The wallet had been on the ground unattended for 30 minutes. The man was identified as 20-year-old Matthew Gatt of San Ġwann, who works for a car rental company.
He at first denied finding the wallet and taking the money, but when he was interrogated by Police Inspector Silvio Magro, he broke down and confessed, insisting there had only been €4,160 in the wallet. Sometime later he admitted that there had been more money but he had spent it.
Mr Gatt appeared before Magistrate Monica Vella yesterday, charged with the theft, failing to return Mr Lu’s documents and breaching a previous court order handed down three months ago.
He pleaded guilty to the theft, and the magistrate ordered Mr Gatt to give Mr Lu the missing €840 and ordered a pre-sentencing report.
Lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran appeared for Mr Gatt.
“It’s like a fairy tale. I think it’s a miracle. I would have never imagined I would find that money again, but there’s a bunch of friendly and helpful people in Malta, and I want everyone to know this. I will be saying nice things about Malta when I return home, rest assured,” Mr Lu told the Times of Malta yesterday.
He said he could now continue to enjoy his two-week holiday “on this marvellous island”.
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