Inspector suspected revenge in Hofstra case, court told

A police inspector charged with leaking information to Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers had told his arresting officer the matter was a case of ‘revenge’

Elton Taliana
Elton Taliana

A police officer, ordered to arrest inspector Elton Taliana over suspicions he was leaking information to Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers, recalled the accused claiming the arrest was an act of “revenge.”

Taliana, the police inspector who was subjected to a search and arrest warrant on the day of his promotion to the rank of superintendent in January, was subsequently suspended from the corps pending criminal proceedings over the alleged leaks.

Graziella Muscat Buhagiar, a superintendent from the People and Standards Unit responsible for enforcing discipline, was summoned to testify in the case against him earlier this morning.

The witness said she had tried to keep it as low profile as possible, calling at the Birkirkara police station in plainclothes for this reason.

Not finding Taliana there, the superintendent and her assistant then went to his home, where they were let in by Taliana’s mother.

“Look Elton. Do you have any idea who this person is?” the arresting officer had started off, showing Taliana a document downloaded from the police system, bearing details of Julian Hofstra, a convicted fraudster at the centre of the information allegedly leaked to Fenech’s lawyers.

“This is some revenge!” was Taliana’s reaction, she told the court.

Taliana could not clearly recall Hofstra and his reference to Amsterdam on the document, although they did sound familiar to him, she said.

She had then informed Taliana that she would have to confiscate his mobile phone and escort him to her superior, Assistant Commissioner Stephen Gatt who was handling the investigation.

Before seizing the mobile, she had allowed the inspector to make a call to cancel a meeting that was going to take place in 30 minutes.

They had entered the police HQ through the back entrance “to keep it as low profile as possible,” Muscat Buhagiar explained.

Asked by Taliana’s lawyer, Arthur Azzopardi, whether she had requested the arrest warrant, the officer said that she had only executed the warrant.

“Do you note anything missing or faulty with that warrant?” asked Azzopardi, making reference to a copy of the official document shown to the witness.

“At a glance, it seems to be the same one. But I can’t recall all the details.”

Taliana had been escorted to the police HQ in Floriana to avoid him the embarrassment of having to escort him to the nearest police station, as per standard procedure.

“To avoid embarrassment. I headed immediately to the investigating officer. I would not humiliate him in such a manner,” she said.

“Did you register the arrest or inform the Birkirkara police station?” the lawyer asked. “No! I even went in plainclothes,” insisted the witness.

“Were you trained to execute arrest warrants?” Azzopardi asked.

“I cannot recall if I was specifically trained. I’ve been in the corps for 15 years,” the superintendent replied.

The superintendent’s assistant testified next, confirming the sequence of events leading to Taliana’s arrest. “Where you wearing your uniform?” asked Taliana’s lawyer.

“Yes,” the officer replied.

A foreign witness was then called to testify but the hearing continued behind closed doors, after the court, presided over by Magistrate Nadine Lia, upheld a request for this put forward by the defence.

The case continues in October.