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Roadworks contractors handed suspended sentences, fined €140,000 for defrauding Transport Malta

In 2011, inspector Angelo Gafa leading the investigation at the time, had testified that a Transport Malta official pocketed an estimated €93,000 by issuing inflated invoices for road works and then splitting the difference with the contractor

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
11 September 2017, 2:39pm
The accused defrauded Transport Malta half a million and a suspended sentence was handed after the money was repaid
The accused defrauded Transport Malta half a million and a suspended sentence was handed after the money was repaid
Contractor George Oliver Schembri, of Alfred Schembri & Sons Ltd, together with his accounts clerk Donald Camilleri have been found guilty of defrauding Transport Malta out of more than €500,000 in 2010 and with laundering proceeds of corruption.

The men were also placed under a perpetual general interdiction and ordered to foot the €5,000 bill for the appointment of court experts.

Alfred Schembri & Sons turn out to have benefitted from a total of 86 road works contracts, including eight which were awarded by direct order.

The case is connected to that of Transport Malta engineer Gordon Zammit who was accused, in separate proceedings, of fraudulently inflating the costs for works carried out to almost double the original figure.

In 2011, Police Inspector Angelo Gafa leading the investigation at the time, had testified that Zammit pocketed an estimated €93,000 by issuing inflated invoices for road works and then splitting the difference with the contractor.

The left over funds, less tax, were kept by road works contractor Alfred Schembri and Sons Ltd.

Schembri and Camilleri pleaded guilty to bribing Zammit, a public official, making money through false pretenses, fraud, making a false declaration to a public authority and money laundering.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud, noted that Transport Malta had declared that it had finally been repayed the defrauded sum of €503,518 in August this year.

The court declared that corruption had become an insidious plague that was corroding society.

“It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human society to flourish.

“Corruption is a cancer: a cancer that eats away at a citizen's faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity; already-tight national budgets, crowding out important national investments. It wastes the talent of entire generations. It scares away investments and jobs. 

“Corruption in every aspect of human activity, like employment, education, commerce, justice, sport, promotions is not only theft, but could also be a homicidal weapon, because the injustice could be so great that there are some who are unable to recover from it... those who without conscience, descend into the mire of corruption, are not only unjustly enriching themselves, but doing so to the detriment of others.”

“Unless it is giddy, our conscience should tell us that those who... evade tax, abuse social services or practice corruption, are duty bound to return that which they obtained through deceit. It is a shame that nowadays we hear so rarely that thieves must return what they have stolen! The wound that this type of crime causes both to the poor and to society cries out for justice, even if the person responsible has succeeded in leaping out of the scales of justice.”

The court noted that the accused had admitted to the charges. After taking into account the fact that they had repaid the entire amount defrauded, the court proceeded to sentence George-Oliver Schembri to two years imprisonment, suspended for four years, together with a fine of €110,000. Donald Camilleri was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for your years, along with a €30,000 fine.

Police Inspectors Yvonne Farrugia and Fabian Fleri prosecuted.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and Kenneth Grima were defence counsel.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...
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