Judge's bribery | Police questioned judge over traffickers' sentence

Judged Lawrence Quintano was questioned by police over allegations by convicted drug trafficker that he knew his sentence had been compromised.

Mr. Justice Lawrence Quintano
Mr. Justice Lawrence Quintano

Judge Lawrence Quintano, who sentenced drug trafficker Darren Desira to 18 years in prison last November, was questioned by police after the criminal had alleged with police he already knew what the judge's sentence was going to be.

But criminal investigators had already established that the judge was estranged from events unfolding behind the scenes of the very case he was deciding, a case on which another judged Raymond C. Pace, approached him about in a bid to influence the same judgement.

Pace is charged with having attempted to influence the appeal on Desira to make sure his sentence was reconfirmed.

Quintano, who has presided over a number of serious trials by jury, found himself under the spotlight when police arrested Judge Pace last December and charged him with corruption, trading in influence and money laundering.

Pace, who has since resigned his seat, was intercepted by the Security Services talking to Sandro Psaila, 40 of Valletta, and Raymond Caruana, 50 of Zebbug - known to the police for their involvement in drug trafficking - about attempts to influence his Quintano in handing a severe jail term to Desira, in a tit-for-tat move to a rival gang.

Desira allegedly owed money to Caruana, and while a plea bargaining deal for a 15-year term had failed with the Attorney General, he challenged his fate with an admission before Quintano and was handed an 18-year jail term.

But taking the witness stand last week as a witness during the proceedings against Psaila and Caruana who are charged with corrupting Judge Pace, Desira said that he had known beforehand that he would be jailed for 18 years.

He accused the judge of "acting strangely" and for being late for the sitting.

The doubts cast on the Judge, who had been previously questioned by the Police during the initial investigations which led to Pace's arrest in December, caused quite a stir in the law courts last week.

Desira's defence lawyers Giannella de Marco, Joe Giglio and Steve Tonna Lowell stressed that their client was the victim of an improperly devised prison term.