Orchestra chief met with top brass to talk musician out of sexual harassment complaints

Malta Philharmonic Orchestra cover-up: Top management discussed how to 'change victim's mind' sexual harassment complaints, court told

Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Chief Executive Sigmund Mifsud held a meeting with top management officials to discuss how to convince a female musician to reconsider her sexual harassment complaint against an orchestra official.

Inspector Kevin Pulis testified before magistrate Gabriella Vella this morning, giving his account of the investigation into the orchestra official in question, whose name is subject to a court-imposed reporting ban.

The police had spoken “at length” with the alleged victim and had later obtained an arrest warrant for the official in question, who was subsequently arraigned in court and had registered a guilty plea.

Sometime later, the police suspecting the involvement of the orchestra CEO, Sigmund Mifsud, in covering up the alleged crimes, had questioned several individuals, including the alleged victim, who had then released a statement.

One of the people spoken to had told the police that Mifsud had asked her to set up a meeting with the MPO’s top management.in November. During that meeting, she said, Mifsud had urged the other attendees to “convince the victim to consider things carefully, so that if she was going to seek revenge, to think twice.”

The MPO’s financial controller, who the police understood to be Mifsud’s second-in-command had also been present during that meeting and had been spoken to by the police. He, too, had said that during the meeting, Mifsud had told him to try and convince the alleged victim to rewrite her resignation letter and not take the matter to the authorities as this was going to cause untold damage to the orchestra.

Asked whether he had followed Mifsud’s suggestion, the witness said he had not as doing so would construe misconduct on his part, adding that he had felt that the woman’s allegations ought to be looked into and if necessary, steps be taken.

After speaking to other persons who had been present for that meeting, Inspectors Pulis and Gabriel Micallef had asked Mifsud to meet them at the Valletta police station. Mifsud had cooperated with the police, giving them access to his mobile phone where chats involving Mifsud and the unnamed official indicated a strong friendship between the two.

“We obtained a clear picture of why that meeting took place,” Inspector Pulis said. During the evening of November 4, Mifsud was asked whether he wanted to release a statement, which he did. A copy of the recorded two-hour statement was exhibited in the acts during today’s sitting.

Cross-examined by lawyer Shawn Zammit, the inspector said that he had confronted Mifsud with recordings found on Mifsud’s own WhatsApp. The inspector confirmed that he was aware of the existence of more recordings which he had not heard, but explained that he had confronted the accused with the allegations made by the victim and the recordings between Mifsud and the unnamed official. 

The defence claimed that it had no access to the recording allegedly made by the victim nor the WhatsApp chats, with the police inspector replying that the victim’s recording was not in his possession and that he did not know whether it was in the police’s possession at all.

A police sergeant from the stationed at Valletta also took the stand today, testifying how the woman had filed a report of sexual harassment against the unnamed official on October 9. She had given an account of the man’s conduct and explained that she had also spoken to the CEO, Sigmund Mifsud, who had dismissed her complaints, telling her that she was exaggerating and being too sensitive.

A few months later she had confronted Mifsud about the harassment again and was first told that Mifsud would talk to the official concerned, but shortly afterwards told her that she was exaggerating and that one had to “see both sides of the story.”

The final witness in today’s sitting, a police constable also stationed at Valletta, confirmed the sergeant’s account, adding that when the alleged victim had filed her report, she had also sent screenshots of WhatsApp conversations with the official.

The case was adjourned to January 24 at noon.