Boss threatened migrant worker not to call ambulance ‘unless he wanted to go to prison’

Court hears how construction boss warned migrant workers not to call ambulance for Lamin Jaiteh, claiming they would go to jail

Jaiteh Lamin (left) was injured on a construction site and dumped by his boss Glen Farrugia (right) on the road side.
Jaiteh Lamin (left) was injured on a construction site and dumped by his boss Glen Farrugia (right) on the road side.

Magistrate Marseanne Farrugia will conduct a visit to the construction site later this month, where worker Lamin Jaiteh suffered serious injuries after falling from a height.

In another marathon sitting in the case against Glenn Farrugia, Jaiteh’s employer, who is charged with grievous bodily harm and other offences after allegedly moving Lamin from the site and dumping him on the side of the road, the court heard a co-worker testify how Farrugia told employees not to call an ambulance.

Jaiteh’s co-worker, Sulayman Dramme, a Gambian man who used to work for Farrugia, testified that when the boss arrived on the site of the accident he told workers not to call an ambulance "unless you want to go to prison". Instead, Farrugia said he would take the injured worker to hospital himself in his van.

Dramme was on the construction site when the accident happened but did not witness the fall. In a two-hour long grilling, he told the court that he was informed by a mutual colleague that someone from Gambia had suffered a fall and, being a Gambian, he was asked to interpret.

Dramme testified that he was one of the first people to reach Lamin after the fall. Lamin was in tremendous pain and was crying, he said. The victim instructed the witness to take his mobile phone from his pocket and call an ambulance, but the witness didn’t know what number to call.

It was at this point that Farrugia arrived on the site of the accident and told the witness not to call an ambulance.

Jaiteh was placed in the front seat in an upright position, the witness said. Lamin could not stand up due to the pain, he said.

Roughly an hour after Farrugia had left with the van, a senior worker had received instructions from his boss which he was to pass on: "If you don’t have any papers, leave the site." The witness therefore caught the bus and went home. He got to know about the case later in the day.

Dramme told the court that he had no payment issues with the contractor.

Defence lawyers Franco Debono and Matthew Xuereb suggested that on site a group of co-workers had tried to help Jaiteh, pulling him up from the floor.

The co-worker told the court that Farrugia had been unable to flatten the back seat of the van in order to transport the injured man because of tools. Xuereb, however pointed out that that the seats in two-seater construction van do not have this functionality.

32-year-old Jaiteh was abandoned on Selmun Road, Mellieħa, last September, after suffering fractured vertebrae in a fall on a construction site. The incident led to widespread outrage and had shone a spotlight on the pitiful conditions of Malta’s migrant workers.

In other testimony, medical consultant Mark Portelli took the stand and explained the injuries – two fractured vertebrae, which fortunately weren’t causing any pressure on the spinal cord. He said this was very painful. Jaiteh also had a broken elbow that was so badly damaged that it was impossible to reconstruct, necessitating the use of prosthetics.

There weren’t any post-op complications and Jaiteh was making progress, he said. He went on to explain that man’s condition was improving and that he is now mobile. Jaiteh has to wear a Kendall brace for the time being.

Dr Simon Micallef who was on duty at the emergency department at Mater Dei Hospital when Jaiteh arrived, took the stand and explained that when admitted, he had complained of pain and was referred for a CT scan. The doctor could not confirm how long Jaiteh was left waiting at the emergency department.

Both doctors said the injuries were grievous in nature. Questions were put asking whether movement could have caused damage to Jaiteh’s spine. The consultant said he could not exclude it, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point. Portelli told the court that moving the patient was a huge risk but the fractures weren’t caused by the movement, but by the fall, the court was told.

The case has been postponed till mid-November for the court to conduct an on-site inspection.

Last month Farrugia had been granted bail late at night at the end of a marathon eight hour sitting, the first after his arraignment.