TM corruption scandal: Candidate finished driving theory test in half the time, despite arriving late

Three Transport Malta officials are facing corruption charges for allegedly running a driving test racket

A Court hearing evidence against three Transport Malta officials charged with running a corrupt driving test racket has been told how one test candidate somehow finished - and passed - his theory test in less than half the allocated time, despite having arrived late and unprepared.

Several witnesses testified before Magistrate Rachel Montebello on Wednesday as the case against Transport Malta director for the Land Transport Directorate Clint Mansueto, former Żebbuġ Labour councillor Philip Edrick Zammit and Raul Antonio Pace continued. The three men are pleading not guilty to corruption-related charges.

Taking the witness stand on Wednesday, testing centre employee Sheila Cutajar recalled an occasion where one of three candidates whom Zammit had earmarked to be assisted by a translator, had taken the test.

The candidate had been late for the exam, she said. “He had not known what he was going to be examined about but [the translator] Adel Hasan had insisted that he should do the test anyway.”.

Cutajar recalled pointing out that it was almost closing time, explaining that the candidate had been allocated 100 minutes for the test.

"What I remember is that Adel insisted on doing it himself, saying that it wouldn't take long and so the test was carried out."

"This exam finished way before 6pm," she said, “it should have taken 100 minutes but in the end took only 45 minutes,” recalled the witness, explaining that she remembered it clearly because had the test taken the full 100 minutes, she would have ended up working past closing time and this had not happened.

Cutajar told the court that the candidate in question, Emmanuel Sammut, had been one of three candidates singled out by Zammit as needing a translator, in an email he sent in August 2020. 

These emails from Zammit were a regular occurrence, she said, telling the court that Clint Mansueto would also be CC-ed.

In a sitting last August, the court had heard the prosecuting police inspector testify to how, when questioned by the police, Mansueto had said that he had been under pressure exerted by a minister to help certain individuals pass their driving test. The individuals were allegedly working on the minister’s villa. The minister was not named in court.

The witness was asked about the number of times three specific candidates had sat for their theory tests. One of the names she mentioned was Marcus Galdes, who had also been mentioned by a previous witness last September

That candidate had failed to pass his driving theory exam on his first two attempts, but had been successful on his third attempt, in April 2018. He had likewise failed two tests for a Category C licence but had then passed on his third attempt in May 2019. Galdes had subsequently passed his Category D theory test, allowing him to drive minibuses.  The following year he had passed the first part of the theory test for a bus driver licence but had failed the second part of the test, after which he did not take the test again.

Details of the practical tests completed by the three candidates were exhibited by Pierre Montebello, chief officer at the Land Transport Directorate together with screenshots taken from the authority’s computer systems. 

The case was adjourned to March 20.

Inspector Wayne Borg is prosecuting, together with lawyer Abigail Caruana Vella from the office of the Attorney General. Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jacob Magri are assisting Mansueto. Lawyer Joe Giglio is appearing for Pace. Lawyer Herman Mula is representing Zammit.