Fr. Deo Debono, the suspended priest from the Provincial Parish church of the Augustinians in Malta, has pled guilty during his arraignment to charges stemming from the theft of sacred art. Asked by Magistrate Ian Farrugia if he was certain he wanted to enter a plea of guilty, Fr. Debono spoke briefly with his attorney and then affirmed his guilty plea in the theft of paintings and religious objects for services. Magistrate Farrugia then handed down a two-year jail term suspended for four years and ordered Debano to pay €9,500 to the third-party victim of fraud who had purchased the paintings in good faith, unaware that they had been stolen.
Prior to his arrest, the popular priest told friends about missing paintings at the church and indicated that he suspected workmen from a restoration project. Debono's story began to unravel when a thurible and an incense boat from the nun's cloister turned up at the Maltese Antiquarian Shop for €3,500 and someone notified the mother superior of the cloistered Augustinian nuns’ convent. Police then contacted the shop, who had not suspected the priest given his position at the church.
Augustinian Father Leslie Gatt, has stated that the provincial authorities of the church order are still considering the way forward regarding the the priest's role in the order following his guilty please.