Carmelo Abela testifies that police had no questions for him over 2010 HSBC heist

Jason Azzopardi had claimed that Abela was promised €300,000 to provide criminals footage and access cards to enable them to rob the HSBC Bank headquarters

Abela says the allegations, which damaged his reputation and cost him public office, are false
Abela says the allegations, which damaged his reputation and cost him public office, are false

Former Minister Carmelo Abela has told a court that police had no questions for him when he recently voluntarily made himself available to the investigation into the 2010 HSBC heist.

Carmelo Abela took the stand in an ongoing libel case he filed against lawyer Jason Azzopardi, over Azzopardi’s public claims that Abela had collaborated with criminals planning a heist at the HSBC Head Office in 2010, where Abela had been employed at the time.

Testifying before magistrate Rachel Montebello this afternoon, Abela said the allegations were “lies” which had damaged his reputation and cost him public office.

“It was not an acceptable speech,” said Abela, who pointed out that he was not given a ministry to lead after the last general election.

“Although it affected me the most, it also had an impact on my wife and children,” he said.

Abela said the police had never called him in for questioning in connection with the heist or to investigate him. “To be precise, there was only one [occasion], more recently when I invited the police to question me. When I went to the police, they had no questions for me.”

“I went to make myself available to the police. Obviously I narrated the events which I went through, but the police, with regards to this attempted hold up, had no questions…” When questioned by the Magistrate, Abela confirmed that he had not been interrogated.

“Neither did the bank take action against me, then or now,” Abela said. 

He told the court that the negative repercussions of the allegation made by the defendant had also affected his reputation with his political counterparts abroad. “I was Minister for Foreign Affairs and my name was tarnished in a way that cannot be quantified.”

Abela said he distinguished between people who knew him, who did not accept that what was being alleged could be true and the public who did not and who based their judgement on the basis of “what they heard in the media.”

Cross-examining Abela, lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel, appearing for Azzopardi, asked Abela whether the Prime Minister had ever given him a reason for leaving him out of his latest cabinet of ministers.

“It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, and whilst not reason was given, I cannot exclude that potentially, it could have been because the case was still undecided. It could have been a factor."

The case was adjourned to November 2 for further cross-examination.

Jason Azzopardi's claims

In a Facebook post, Azzopardi had claimed that Abela was promised €300,000 to provide criminals footage and access cards to enable them to rob the HSBC Bank headquarters. At the time, Abela worked at the bank and also had access to the equipment that produced security access cards.

Abela denied the claims.

The allegation that a “sitting minister” had been an accomplice in the robbery were first made by Vince Muscat and Alfred Degiorgio – the hitmen in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

But it was Azzopardi who had named Abela as the minister in question in a Facebook post, which prompted Abela to file an urgent libel suit against Azzopardi, at the time a Nationalist MP.

Daren Debono has since admitted to his part in the robbery and received a reduced sentence, but was jailed for six months and fined €10,000 after refusing to testify against his accomplices, Vince Muscat and Fabio Psaila, reneging on the terms of his plea deal. 

Testifying in the compilation of evidence against Muscat and Debono in February 2011, Abela had admitted that he sometimes used the access card equipment.

MaltaToday had previously reported that the police were investigating the claims against Abela and had asked the judge assigned to hear the Muscat-Debono case, for a copy of the minister’s 2011 deposition.

In an affidavit presented in court, Abela “categorically and absolutely” denied any complicity in the heist.

Lawyer Pawlu Lia is representing Abela in the proceedings. Lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel is appearing for Azzopardi.