Former local council officials acquitted for 2008 travel ticket saga

ByRochelle W. Stone

Sep 15, 2021

All of the former mayors and local councilors who were indicted in a 2008 expenditure fraud scandal have now been acquitted, after the other four defendants were acquitted on Wednesday morning.

They had been charged following an investigation by OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, which discovered discrepancies in a large number of plane tickets, the price of which had been fully reimbursed by the EU, but had actually been purchased at a lower price than the price.

The court had been told that tickets issued by KD Travel Services Limited to the local council association and its members, who would also have private accounts with the same travel agency, would be billed alongside buyers who would then claim an amount. higher in the EU.

Former deputy mayor of Birkirkara Doris Borg, former mayor of Mellieha Joseph Borg; The mayor of San Lawrenz Noel Formosa, the former executive secretary of Fgura Oreste Alessandro, the former president of the association of local councils and former mayor of Kalkara Michael Cohen, the former municipal councilor of Qrendi Claudette Abela Baldacchino, l former LCA president and former Gzira town councilor Ian Micallef had been charged with several offenses, including fraud and embezzlement, after the investigation.

In a previous appeal procedure which ended in 2019, Kenneth Demartino, Noel Formosa and Ian Micallef, had been cleared of all charges.

In a judgment rendered on Wednesday by magistrate Josette Demicoli, Alessandro, Borg, Cohen and Abela Baldacchino were also acquitted.

Magistrate Demicoli stressed that the prosecution had not summoned representatives of local banks to testify on the accounts of the accused and that of the Association. “Although criminal intent has not been proven, that does not mean things were done right. But here, we are in the sphere of criminal law and it is only the evidence brought before the court that is evaluated ”, observed the magistrate.

Likewise, the accusations of embezzlement have not been proved either, as the sums paid by the Committee of the Regions were not paid under a title provided for by law.

On the falsification charges, the magistrate ruled that on the basis of the evidence, she could conclude that while it was true that the fact that the accused would transmit manual invoices and present them to the Committee of the Regions as proof of the ticket of plane purchases, could be assimilated to a complicity in falsification because the indicated price differed from that actually paid, it was not proven that this had been done knowingly.

Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla continued the case.

Lawyers Emmanuel Mallia, Ezekiel Psaila and Dustin Camilleri were the defense lawyers.

Source link