Enough evidence to indict orchestra chief Sigmund Mifsud with suborning sexual harassment victim

Court hears evidence how Malta Philharmonic Orchestra CEO Sigmund Mifsud took no action against an official who grabbed a woman's bottom and exposed her chest

Sigmund Mifsud is charged with suborning witnesses from giving information on an alleged criminal act
Sigmund Mifsud is charged with suborning witnesses from giving information on an alleged criminal act

There is enough prima facie evidence to indict the CEO of Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) over allegations that he suborned witnesses from giving information on an alleged criminal act, a court declared on Monday.

Magistrate Gabriella Vella, who presided over Monday’s case through a video conference link, declared that there is sufficient evidence to issue a bill of indictment against Sigmund Mifsud, the orchestra CEO.

Prosecuting inspector Gabriel Micallef testified in court on Monday, giving a timeline of events since a member of the orchestra accused a senior official of the MPO of sexually harassing her.

The victim filed a report in November at the Valletta police station, alleging sexual harassment in the workplace.

She explained to police that the harassment started in the first weeks that she started working with the orchestra. The senior official would massage her shoulders and slowly move his hands down to her lower back, just above her bottom.

“She told me that she wasn’t comfortable with this,” Micallef explained. The first time it happened she said it was making her ticklish, while other times she would turn her body around as soon as he moves in for the massage.

The senior official would explain this behaviour by saying he was arranging her posture.

In a separate incident, this official grabbed her bottom while she was talking to someone else. He walked away after doing this.

During a separate farewell party, the senior official asked pulled her top down and exposed the top part of ther chest.

The victim went on to report these incidents to Mifsud as CEO of the orchestra. She showed him messages that the senior official had sent her, including photos. However, Mifsud told her to delete these messages from her mobile, but told her that action will be taken.

But the harassment didn’t stop after she spoke with Mifsud.

On top of this, Mifsud started speaking to people working in the MPO about these allegations in a bid to stop her from filing a police report.

When the victim submitted her letter of resignation, the orchestra’s human resources chief had drafted an email to be sent to the permanent secretary. However, he wanted to speak with Mifsud before sending the email.

When they met, Mifsud instructed him not to send the email to the permanent secretary, and said that he would speak to the victim one-on-one.

He held a meeting with several high-up officials to discuss this. “He said if there’s a chance to speak to her and convince her not to file a report, it would be better.”

Another meeting was held with musicians. Mifsud is alleged to have told them that anyone who speaks out about this case will be considered complicit.

While police were investigating the case, they found several Whatsapp chats between Mifsud and another high-up official in the orchestra. They sent lots of voice messages to each other, trying to prepare a contingency plan and make sure the harassment allegations do not become public.

Police went on to arrest Mifsud on 4 November and took a statement from him. During questioning, Mifsud refused to answer to several questions. He was evasive on other questions.

After Micallef’s testimony, the prosecution requested transcripts of  Mifsud’s police statement and of recordings taken by the victim, which she saved on a pendrive.

Lawyer Edward Gatt, representing Mifsud, insisted that the defence reserves its position on the admissibility of the recordings, and will tackle the validity of the recordings “at the opportune time”.

The magistrate nominated Lennox Vella to draft the transcript of the police statements. She said she will nominate someone to draft transcripts on the recordings at the next sitting.

She also nominated court expert Keith Cutajar to carry out a complete data extraction on exhibited devices, as well as conducting a profil on the mobiles exhibited and a cross-match analysis.

Inspectors Gabriel Micallef and Kevin Pulis prosecuted. Lawyers Edward Gatt and Shaun Zammit were counsel to the defence. Lawyers Ilenia Agius, Roberto Spiteri and Joseph Gatt appeared parte civile.