Ex-Times journalist Ivan Camilleri paid supermarket owner €5,000 after shoplifting incident

Supermarket owner Ray Mintoff testifies that former Times journalist Ivan Camilleri paid him €5,000 after shoplifting incident was flagged

Former Times journalist Ivan Camilleri
Former Times journalist Ivan Camilleri

Former Times of Malta journalist Ivan Camilleri paid the owner of Valyou Supermarket in Naxxar €5,000 after staff members flagged a shoplifting incident.

The startling revelation came at the very end of the testimony delivered by supermarket owner Ray Mintoff in a libel case filed by MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan against Camilleri.

The €5,000 payment was ostensibly a form of settlement Camilleri paid to Mintoff, despite attempts by both the owner and the former Times journalist to play down the gravity of an alleged shoplifting incident at the supermarket.

The libel concerns a Facebook post in which Camilleri denied MaltaToday’s story on his alleged shoplifting from the supermarket.

Mintoff took the stand before Magistrate Rachel Montebello this afternoon. On 29 October, he had been called by Saviour Balzan, he recounted.

“He asked me about what happened with Ivan. I asked whether he was recording and he said no. He insisted this was true. I said I didn’t accuse Ivan of anything. I said I had an incident with Camilleri, but I had accepted Camilleri’s explanation and everything was settled,” Mintoff said.

On the back of Camilleri’s trolley were a number of items, “water and so on,” which had not been scanned, he said. “The next day I spoke to Camilleri about the case… he had been buying stuff and had a bill of around €70 to €80 and my secretary told me that he still had some things which were not paid for. Afterwards, he had come back and apologised and paid for the items,” Mintoff testified.

He admitted this was a difficult situation for him because Camilleri was a regular customer. “I sent for him the next day because I wanted to make sure… I called him and he came to speak to me,” Mintoff told the court, adding that Camilleri had apologised, describing it an honest mistake.

When cross-examined by lawyer Veronique Dalli as to why he had been suspicious of Camilleri in the first place, Mintoff added: “The fact that someone is trying to leave without paying for everything is a basis for suspicion.”

But under further cross-examination, an agitated Ray Mintoff told the court that although he had accepted Camilleri's explanation for the unpaid goods, he accepted €5,000 from the former Times journalist to ostensibly settle any doubts on two separate occasions that had been flagged.

“The sum [Camilleri] paid was €5,000,” Mintoff admitted. “He paid them in two payments of €2,500.”

The magistrate however did not allow lawyer Veronique Dalli to ask Mintoff as to how the payments were made, by cheque or cash.

Earlier in the sitting, Balzan also took the witness stand.

“Two articles dealt with the topic [of the alleged shoplifting]. In the first report, I didn’t mention the supermarket or Ray Mintoff by name. I gave a bit of background about Camilleri… he has a colourful history,” Balzan said as Camilleri smiled.

“The second article was on 31 October. The day after this story broke, The Times wrote an editorial in defence of their journalist and said that they had spoken to the owners and described my article as malicious.”

But later, in a statement on 21 December, after the Yorgen Fenech tip off scandal involving Camilleri emerged, the Times had written another editorial in which it said it had investigated the allegations and found them to be true.

Balzan said he attempted to rebuild bridges with the Times. “I don’t write a story to destroy people. I’m not looking for my pound of flesh. I don’t want to put him further down than he is. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong,” Balzan said.

The case continues on 18 March.