Magistrate recuses herself in Fredrick Azzopardi criminal case

Criminal proceedings against former Infrastructure Malta CEO Fredrick Azzopardi are to be assigned to a new magistrate

Fredrick Azzopardi is accused of breaching environmental laws in the Wied Qirda asphalting he pushed through
Fredrick Azzopardi is accused of breaching environmental laws in the Wied Qirda asphalting he pushed through

Criminal proceedings against former Infrastructure Malta CEO Fredrick Azzopardi are to be assigned to a new magistrate, after his request for the recusal of magistrate Elaine Mercieca was upheld this morning.

Azzopardi had requested the magistrate’s recusal in the criminal case filed against him over breaches of environmental protection legislation, on the grounds that the same magistrate had already pronounced herself in a closely-related case. He is also arguing that the charges against him are time-barred. 

Last month, Azzopardi was formally charged with having violated environmental protection legislation in 2019, when he allegedly ignored a stop-and-comply order issued by a governmental authority and ordered a contractor to continue with road building works in Ħaż-Żebbuġ’s Wied Qirda.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Rachel Powell appeared for Azzopardi. Inspector Eliott Magro is prosecuting.

Azzopardi, the road building agency’s ex-boss has been charged with ordering contractor Anthony Camilleri of AC Group to continue with works in the valley, despite having been ordered to stop by the environmental watchdog. In a judgement imposing a €36,000 fine on Camilleri which was handed down by magistrate Elaine Mercieca last April, the court declared that Infrastructure Malta had disregarded the stop-and-comply order issued by ERA by ordering its contractor to continue with the road works.

That court had been told how the contractor was receiving orders from Infrastructure Malta, specifically from its former CEO Fredrick Azzopardi and architect David Vassallo. Azzopardi had insisted during the hearing of that case that the works were necessary to ensure the safety of the public road and that he thought the stop order meant that no work could be done apart from that related to the strengthening of the road.

Infrastructure Malta’s works, intended to reinforce a road leading to a private residence in the ecologically sensitive area, had resulted in considerable environmental damage in the valley, including the uprooting of protected trees and the destruction of other natural habitats.

In January 2020, politician Arnold Cassola had filed a criminal complaint with the police asking them to investigate and prosecute Azzopardi over the works, saying they did not have a permit, in addition to the ignored stop notice. When no action was taken by the police, Cassola then filed a further complaint with the Professional Standards Board, over the police’s inaction against Azzopardi, the agency’s CEO at the time.