Seven more police officers charged with fraud at traffic section

A second round of arraignments linked to extra duties abuse at the police traffic section sees six police constables and a sergeant being charged with fraud

More officers were charged with participating in an extra duty racket at the police traffic section
More officers were charged with participating in an extra duty racket at the police traffic section

Seven police officers were charged with fraud after they skived extra duties, in a second round of arraignments linked to abuse at the traffic section.

The six police constables and a sergeant were charged on Monday with committing fraud after they failed to turn up for assigned extra work duties but still got paid for it.

In one case, a constable was allegedly paid for carrying out extra duties when he was on vacation leave while another officer is accused of unplugging the tracking device on his motorbike. 

The officers appeared before Magistrate Rachel Montebello and denied all the charges. The case against an eighth officer was postponed to another date. 

Five other officers were arraigned in court last week on similar charges and pleaded not guilty. They included a superintendent, two inspectors and the police sergeant believed to be behind the police traffic section racket.

The magistrate warned each of the officers that they were accused of a very serious crime, made worse because they were police officers and were duty-bound to prevent such crimes from happening.

According to the prosecution, all officers told investigators that they had never been ordered to stay put at the assigned place of work until they received further orders. They contended that when they were asked to assist in an operation, they would simply oblige.

The court heard how some of them explained that they sometimes forgot their mobiles at home so that was why their mobile was showing up in one locality when they would have been at another locality on work duty. 

The first constable to plead not guilty to his charges was Josmar Muscat, 29, from Siġġiewi. He was charged with defrauding the police force of thousands of euro in extra duties done in different localities to those he was meant to be in at the time.

Police constable Alexander Sellar, 40, from Żebbuġ, was meant to be on extra duty in Marsa between 6am and 2pm and between 2pm and 6pm. But at the time when he was meant to be carrying out this work, his mobile location showed that he was in Żebbuġ, St Paul’s Bay and Siġġiewi.

Prosecutors noted how on 6 November, Sellar was listed as being on leave but received payment for extra duties. When asked about this and other similar episodes, he told them he did not want the money. The alleged crimes took place between last September and November.

Another accused is Francis Zerafa, a 47-year-old constable from Marsaxlokk who allegedly received an extra €7,605. Investigators say Zerafa, like the others, was also in different places to the duties assigned to him.

Constable Anthony Dimech, 32, from Mġarr, was also accused of committing more than €5,000 in fraud. Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi appeared for these officers.

Police sergeant Matthew Azzopardi from Tarxien allegedly received just over €2,000 for extra duties which were unaccounted for. He told investigators that he would never leave his place of work except when someone called him to leave. Legal procurator Mario Buttigieg represented him in court.

Police constable Edwin Zammit, 34, from Birżebbuġa, was accused of committing €9,000 fraud for extra duty he did not perform. It also emerged that he did not answer any questions when he was arrested. Lawyers Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia and Marion Camilleri represented him in court. 

Police constable Francis Sciberras, 52, was accused of committing over €5,000 in fraud. He told the police he would obey instructions given to him by Sergeant Norman Xuereb, who is one of the officers who allegedly masterminded the racket.

He told the police that he sometimes went home to eat. He said he received payments for extra duties in cash and sometimes by cheque. He also admitted to removing the tracking apparatus from his work bike. Lawyer Ludwig Caruana appeared for Sciberras. 

Magistrate Montebello placed all officers under a bill of indictment.

The case of Terrence Azzopardi, which was due to be heard, was postponed.

The prosecution was led by Inspectors Lianne Bonello, Claire Borg, David Bugeja and Sean Friggieri.