[WATCH] Glen Farrugia charged with causing grievous bodily harm to 'dumped' migrant worker

Building contractor Glen Farrugia is denied bail • He is charged with causing grievous bodily harm to a migrant worker employed illegally by his company and of breaches in employment and health and safety laws

Glen Farrugia being escorted to court under arrest (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Glen Farrugia being escorted to court under arrest (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A building contractor has been denied bail after being charged with causing grievous injury to an employee who suffered spinal injuries in a fall.

Glen Farrugia, 31, one of two shareholders and a director of the company J&G Farrugia Contractors, was remanded in custody on charges related to an incident involving a migrant construction worker who was left injured side of the road in Mellieħa after a workplace accident..

Farrugia from Żebbuġ was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Lamin Jaiteh from Gambia, as well as several other charges relating to breaches of occupational health and safety and labour market laws, including failing to pay Jaiteh correctly for working on a public holiday, failing to pay for unutilised vacation leave, Saturday pay and overtime as well as the statutory bonus, tax and national insurance.

He was also accused of tampering with a crime scene.

The incident sparked public outrage on Tuesday after a video posted to Facebook showed the worker, Jaiteh Lamin, 32, left on the pavement after having allegedly fallen a height of two-storeys on a construction site. Lamin was working without a permit for the construction company and his boss is alleged to have told him to say that he was hit by a car.

The incident was brought to light by a passer-by, who spotted the injured man and uploaded a video to Facebook in which the injured man can be heard sobbing and pleading that he doesn’t want to go to prison.

The video led to widespread condemnation across the board, with several employer organisations, Prime Minister Robert AbelaOpposition leader Bernard Grech and President George Vella calling for justice.

Farrugia pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyers, Franco Debono and Matthew Xuereb requested bail but this was denied by the court.

The prosecution was led by Superintendent Priscilla Caruana Lee and Inspector George Frendo, while lawyers Franco Debono and Matthew Xuereb appeared for the accused. The case was heard by Magistrate Nadine Lia.

12:23 That’s it for today. Thank you for following. A summary of proceedings will follow shortly. Kurt Sansone
12:22 The sitting is over and the accused is escorted out of the hall. He will be taken to prison. Kurt Sansone
12:21 The court says that in the circumstances there is a real risk of tampering with evidence. However, it solicits the prosecution to bring the victim to testify at the first opportunity. Kurt Sansone
12:20 The court, after taking note of the circumstances of how the alleged crime took place, as well as the fact that the victim still needs to testify, denies bail. Kurt Sansone
12:13 Debono says the court can impose conditions to ensure that the accused appears for every sitting. Kurt Sansone
12:11 Debono argues that inquiries are meant to preserve evidence. Kurt Sansone
12:11 Defence lawyer Matthew Xuereb adds that a director was mentioned by the police yesterday and he was not arraigned. This reduced the credibility of the prosecution’s argument related to the risk of the accused approaching witnesses. “Furthermore, the fact that there was no inquiry was no fault of the accused,” the lawyer says. Kurt Sansone
12:09 “Even if there is a fear, the court has to rule in favour of bail, according to the law,” Debono says. Kurt Sansone
12:08 The lawyer argues that the man is already charged with tampering with evidence, and cannot be denied bail because of this. Moreover, he cooperated with the police and had strong family ties to Malta. Kurt Sansone
12:07 The defence lawyer says the accused has opted to use his right to silence and will give his version, which is slightly different from that given by the prosecution, at the appropriate time. Kurt Sansone
12:07 Debono objects strongly to the charge of grievous bodily harm and insists the rest of the charges are punishable by fines. The accused has a “nearly clean” criminal record, he says. The only previous brush with the law was a conditional discharge some 14 years ago, Debono argues. “He is presumed innocent and court’s judgment will be made on what is heard in this court, not on the media,” Debono says. Kurt Sansone
12:04 Debono: “Aside from the first charge, the other charges do not carry more than one year in prison. In this case, I don't know why he is being charged with grievous bodily harm.” Kurt Sansone
12:03 The prosecution says that the accused had already tampered with the scene of a crime and showed no remorse for the incident. “There is a real risk of him doing so again or approaching the victim who is in hospital.” Kurt Sansone
12:03 Defence lawyer Franco Debono requests bail for his client. The prosecution objects. Kurt Sansone
12:02 The accused, Glen Farrugia, gives his details. He is 31 years of age, from Żebbuġ and is a building contractor. He pleads not guilty. Kurt Sansone
12:01 The court asks the accused how he is pleading. Kurt Sansone
11:59 The court notes the presence of lawyer David Saliba for the OHSA. Kurt Sansone
11:53 Farrugia is also charged with failing to pay Jaiteh correctly for working on a public holiday, failing to pay for unutilised vacation leave, Saturday pay and overtime as well as the statutory bonus, tax and national insurance, amongst other employment law infractions. Kurt Sansone
11:52 He also stands charged with failing to observe health and safety regulations and requirements. Kurt Sansone
11:51 Glen Farrugia is charged with grievous bodily harm to Lamin Jaiteh from Gambia. He is also charged in his personal capacity and as a director of J Kurt Sansone
11:46 Inspector Frendo reads out the charges. The accused is 31-years-old and from Żebbuġ. Kurt Sansone
11:43 The court, after hearing the parties, decrees that the arrest is valid and that the requisites of the law were fulfilled. Kurt Sansone
11:42 The inspector clarifies that he is simply saying that he wasn't present for the arrest. Kurt Sansone
11:42 Debono insists that all he has at this stage is “hearsay”. “The arrest is the most important part of the proceedings. The law wants you to be formally informed of your arrest and the reasons for it,” he says. Kurt Sansone
11:39 Debono: “I understand that the situation is dynamic and I respect the police's work, but the point is that the law obliges that this procedure is followed.” Kurt Sansone
11:38 Defence lawyer Franco Debono counters. “We are confusing the right to legal assistance and the requisites of the arrest, which are two different things… With arrest a number of rights are triggered, one of them is that he is informed of what he is being arrested for.” Kurt Sansone
11:37 The court hears that the suspect opted not to sign his police statement. Kurt Sansone
11:36 The inspector replies that investigations were based on information available at the time. There was reasonable suspicion that Farrugia was the employer and he was summoned. The charges are not established at the early stage of the investigation, says the inspector, adding that the accused had refused legal assistance. “This is our daily work, where the police are to establish the facts.” Kurt Sansone
11:35 Debono quotes case law where arrests were declared illegal because these requirements were not scrupulously adhered to. Kurt Sansone
11:33 The other defence lawyer Matthew Xuereb adds that the requirements of the decision to prosecute is listed in the code of police laws. Kurt Sansone
11:32 The defence lawyer persists. “Who took the decision to arrest him? Was it the sergeant, was it the inspector? The prosecution should give us this information, so the court can be sure that the law is satisfied. We humbly submit that this evidence is lacking.” Kurt Sansone
11:31 Debono: “I have heard Inspector Frendo, and have much respect towards him. With all due respect... we have heard that we don't know the police officer who arrested the accused and I have no concrete evidence of what led to the arrest... Here I want to hear the circumstances leading to the arrest and so on... remember that they sent for him and arrested him, he wasn't arrested at the scene.” Kurt Sansone
11:30 Debono argues that the prosecution is obliged to bring direct evidence as required by law to justify the arrest. Kurt Sansone
11:29 Lawyers Andrew Grima and Mattia Felice for DIER tell the court that they are present as representatives of the office, which oversees employment law. Kurt Sansone
11:27 The magistrate instructs the witness not to continue answering this line of questioning. Kurt Sansone
11:27 The inspector attempts to sidestep the question. “Any officer can arrest. I am saying the police decided to arrest him.” Kurt Sansone
11:26 Debono suggests that the police were only considering lesser charges at first, but the question is disallowed as irrelevant to the issue of arrest. Debono asks who took the decision to arrest the man. Kurt Sansone
11:25 The magistrate had told the officer that there was no reason for an inquiry to be held, he says. This was because there was no evidence to preserve as the person had already been moved. Kurt Sansone
11:24 Inspector Frendo: “Yes, we spoke to duty magistrate Rachel Montebello and explained the facts as we knew them - that a person was found in Triq is-Selmun and had allegedly been moved after having a serious accident.” Kurt Sansone
11:23 Debono: “Did you ask for an inquiry?” Kurt Sansone
11:23 Farrugia was taken to the Mosta police station and questioned where he didn't answer many questions. Kurt Sansone
11:23 Frendo: “I was not present. Other officers arrested him, and he can be arrested by any officer of any rank not just an inspector.” Kurt Sansone
11:22 Debono: “Can you tell us what happened at the moment of his arrest?” Kurt Sansone
11:22 The victim identified the employer and gave them his number. “Farrugia came of his own free will,” Debono points out. The inspector was not present at that time. Kurt Sansone
11:21 Frendo says that the accused was arrested at the Qawra police station after being called up by a sergeant. The time was around 1pm. Kurt Sansone
11:20 Inspector Frendo is summoned to the witness stand. Debono asks him what time Farrugia was arrested. Kurt Sansone
11:20 Defence lawyer Franco Debono contests the validity of the arrest. Kurt Sansone
11:20 Farrugia was arraigned after the police consulted with Jobsplus, DIER [the employment relations department] and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. Kurt Sansone
11:19 The court hears how the victim suffered a broken spine, which is considered a grievous injury Kurt Sansone
11:18 Inspector George Frendo: “We have a case where a person who had an incident at the workplace was moved from the place of the incident. The police were informed that the man was on the road at Triq is-Selmun. The man identified his employer as Glen Farrugia and said he had the accident at a building site and was moved by the contractor.” Kurt Sansone
11:16 The court asks the inspector about the circumstances of the arrest. Kurt Sansone
11:16 Magistrate Nadine Lia is presiding. Kurt Sansone
11:15 Inspector George Frendo and Superintendent Priscilla Caruana Lee are prosecuting. Kurt Sansone
11:14 The arraignment begins and Farrugia is called into the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
11:13 Farrugia will be facing some 20 charges, ranging from criminal offences to employment and occupational health and safety law breaches. Kurt Sansone
11:13 Glen Farrugia's lawyers, Franco Debono and Matthew Xuereb are in deep discussion while we wait for the magistrate to clear her scheduled cases. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Farrugia has just been driven to court under arrest. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Our senior court reporter Matthew Agius will be following proceedings as police charge building contractor Glen Farrugia over the incident in which a migrant worker was injured on a construction site and abandoned by the side of the road. Kurt Sansone
11:00 Good morning. Kurt Sansone