Former Infrastructure Malta boss cleared of environmental crimes in Wied Qirda saga

Frederick Azzopardi has been cleared of charges over illegal works at Wied Qirda in Żebbuġ

Former Infrastructure Malta (IM) boss Frederick Azzopardi has been cleared of charges brought against him over illegal works at Wied Qirda in Żebbuġ.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello cleared Azzopardi of the charges due to the payment of an administrative penalty against Infrastructure, addressed to Azzopardi, imposed by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA).

Azzopardi was charged last August over the unauthorised works carried out by the roads agency on a country path in Wied Qirda. The works saw a country path widened and surfaced with tarmac, changing the topography of the valley.

The works were done despite a stop order issued by ERA. Indeed, the court found the contractor guilty of breaching environmental regulations and fined him €36,000.

During the proceedings against Azzopardi, ERA Enforcement Director Aimee Brincat explained that the administrative penalty issued by the Authority against Azzopardi and Infrastructure Malta on the works had been fully paid up.

In fact, Brincat said that ERA considered the case “completely closed”, as no other dues were pending.

The prosecution argued that the penalty was paid by IM, not Azzopardi in his personal capacity. But the court said that ERA only claimed payment from IM.

Had a separate fine been issued against him, with evidence showing that it had not been paid, the situation would have been different, the court argued.

On top of this, ERA said that the remedial works on site were satisfactory.

Between the settled penalty, having been paid before the charges were brought against Azzopardi, and the remedial works on site, the charges could not subsist. Other charges were declared time-barred.

Lawyers Stephen Tonna Lowell, Stefano Filletti, Rachel Powell and Ana Thomas were defence counsel.