Updated | Police racket: arrests rise to 40, cops took ‘protection money’ to turn blind eye

Whistleblower who told on police racket says traffic cops suspended contraventions and violations by collecting cash gifts

Arrests in a police racket dealing with abusive overtime and protection money on violations have now risen to 40, the latest police update says.

25 of the accused have been given police bail, while four have offered their resignation. No officer has yet been arraigned and charged.

A whistleblower who exposed corruption in the Police Traffic Branch has claimed officers collected ‘protection money’ from major construction firms and transport companies to turn a blind eye on traffic contraventions and other violations.

At least 37 members of the Traffic Branch were yesterday arrested as part of an investigation into what the police so far claims is abuse on overtime.

But the whistleblower revealed in December that several members of the Traffic Branch were collecting cash and gifts from companies, in a practice that had been ongoing for a number of years, and with the money going into a bank account administered by a particular police officer and later paid out to the rest, the Malta Independent said.

The Internal Affairs Unit was told that officers would log into the Local Enforcement System Authority (LESA) system, which they have access to, to suspend pending fines.

A total of 37 officers from the police corps’ traffic division have been arrested amid an investigation in overtime abuse.

The traffic section’s superintendent resigned yesterday, the police said, confirming reports that superintendent Walter Spiteri had stepped down after coming under investigation for his role in the suspected overtime fraud.

Police from other divisions have been called in to fill in for the arrested officers, which LESA and Transport Malta are also assisting.

Police officers from the traffic branch were receiving payments for extra duty on various road work projects but failing to turn up, MaltaToday has learnt.

It is understood that officers from the traffic branch were paid thousands in extra duty payments as part of contracted work by Infrastructure Malta.

Sources close to the investigation said some officers would not turn up but still get paid in a scheme that also involved high-ranking officers.

The investigation also revealed that most motorbikes used by the police had their tracking devices removed or disabled, making it hard to pinpoint their location.

Sources said the investigation, which was entrusted to the Economic Crimes Unit, used sophisticated methods to trace the location of police officers, matching this with their extra duty detail.

The investigation has taken hours of work to piece together a comprehensive picture of abuse.

However, it appears that this was not the only abuse perpetrated by officers in the traffic branch and the investigation is expected to cast a wider net.

In some instances, officers were receiving payments for extra duty on private jobs by skiving from work.