Azzopardi case: a court expert and an electrician

An independent audit needs to be carried out on the CCTV footage prepared by court expert Martin Bajada

I firmly believe that an independent audit needs to be carried out on the CCTV footage prepared by court expert Martin Bajada for the inquiries held by Judge Albert Manchè and Magistrate Antonio Vella on the death of Nicholas Azzopardi.

They accepted blindly the work that Bajada did, taking his good will and integrity for granted.

This call for an independent audit has nothing to do with the fact that in 1992, Martin Bajada was found guilty by a London court that embezzled £50,000 of Air Malta funds. The two issues are separate. But the CCTV footage he prepared for the Azzopardi inquiries needs to be scrutinised on its own merits.

The other issue of whether he should be allowed to serve as a court expert on fraud needs also to be considered. A year after a London court found him guilty of fraud, he became a fraud expert appointed by the Maltese courts.

Some animals are more equal than others. I remember the young man who approached me who had spent his years in prison attending courses that qualified him to become an electrician. He passed all his exams but was denied the license to operate as an electrician because he spent some years in prison after he was caught trafficking drugs.

Another young man who took drugs but then kicked the habit also lost his job at the airport as he would not be given a security pass as he was considered a risk. And yet somebody who embezzled £50,000 can become a court expert and boast in his website that since 1993 he has worked on "more than 1,500 cases concerning homicide, organised crime, money laundering, drug trafficking, misappropriation, theft, fraud, intellectual property rights, computer misuse and questioned documents. Today, at any point in time he would have a workload of around 45 cases".

Significantly, his biography starts in 1993 and leaves out what he was involved in as an Air Malta employee in London in 1992 when he embezzled Air Malta funds. In his biography, he edits out any reference to his Air Malta job.

Even before I got to know this information about Bajada, I said that the CCTV footage he prepared as a court expert for the inquiries into the death of Nicholas Azzopardi had been heavily edited and entire sequences of important moments in the chain of events have been deleted. Azzopardi died in April 2008 after he had to be hospitalized following an incident while in police custody.

Assistant Commissioner Michael Cassar, under whose watch the Azzopardi incident took place told Judge Albert Manchè appointed to investigate the case that Bajada "had a tough job selecting the relevant sequences of the CCTV footage". In his report, Manchè accepts uncritically the video footage prepared for him by Bajada. Manchè did not appoint any IT expert to scrutinise the CCTV edited footage prepared by Martin Bajada.

Bajada did not - and was not requested to - prepare a report on what was deleted from the original footage. There are important sequences missing and no explanation has been given why they are missing and whether the original footage is still available. The CCTV footage is edited in a way to corroborate the police evidence. The Manchè and Vella inquiries exonerate the police completely.

Martin Bajada, who prepared the edited CCTV footage, could have flouted the same guidelines he recommended in a talk he gave on 12 January 2012 in a local hotel on the 'Retrieval of video & CCTV evidence' for police investigations.

A fishy tale

From my Parliamentary Question concerning information on consultants appointed by Joe Bannister and Andre Camilleri at the Malta Financial Services Authority from 2008 up till today, quite an extensive list of names emerges.

All of these, we are informed, have been appointed by direct order. Over the five-year period one cannot but note that certain names continue to feature every year within these five years. From this information one may conclude that these foreign entities seem to have become a normal feature within the MFSA set-up. Have these become so indispensable to our country's financial services sector?

One particular name that continues to appear on the MFSA's list of consultants is that of Anthony Fisher and Interlaw. From the minister's reply, Fisher was paid on average €100,000 every year for his 'services' on legislation.

Andre Camilleri, as the director-general at this MFSA, is tasked with this responsibility. What was Fisher's role precisely? If one googles the name of Fisher/Interlaw, what immediately pops up is that this person and law firm are based in Gibraltar, where he runs the Bonita Trust.

On his website he prides himself of having been an advisor to the Maltese government for over 15 years and currently sits as a member of the implementation committee of the Malta Financial Services Authority responsible for overseeing changes to Malta's financial regulatory system.

Now I cannot recall that we had to amend our financial services legislation in each and every one of these last 15 years, but he says he has been advising the MFSA on legislative changes. Another question which immediately springs to mind is that over all these years, has this person been therefore paid over €1,500,000?

One other question which I had put to the Minister of Finance who is responsible for this Authority was to declare how much these consultants were paid since the first time they had been appointed.

I am still waiting for his reply. Who and how were these payments of thousands of euros authorised? Why such huge amounts of money were paid by direct order? I ask again what are Bannister and Camilleri hiding. Is there something very fishy in these appointments over all the years? The people whose money is being entrusted to be administered by these government-appointed persons need to know, and told the whole truth.

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