Mayor says local councils’ bribe had been a ‘long time coming’

Hawker’s son denies paying €1,000 bribe in exchange for a permit to have a stall in the Zebbug market.

The son of a Gozitan hawker allegedly paid a €1,000 bribe to a local council official in exchange for a permit to have a market stall in the Zebbug market, a court heard today.

The remark was made during the arraignment of Christian Curmi, 24, of Birzebbugia, who pleaded not guilty to having bribed the former Zebbug local council projects manager.

Testifying Zebbug Mayor Alfred Grixti said that Christian Curmi and his father, Angelo Curmi, known as ‘Anglu l-Ghawdxi’, had repeatedly requested him personally as well as other local council officials to issue a permit.

The mayor, who the court heard had reported the bribe to the police himself, told the court that on December 12, a local council consultant had told him that the accused’s father had complained that “even though his son paid a €1,000 bribe, the council still refused to issue him a permit.”

Grixti said that this version of events was also seconded by his driver, Jason Farrugia, who in turn had claimed that the bribe was passed on to Philip Gatt – at the time, the projects manager of the Zebbug local council.

Moreover, the court heard that the accused had recorded the alleged bribe between himself and Philip Gatt.

The Zebbug mayor said he consequently reported the matter directly to [former] police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit and filed a police report.

The mayor told the court that given the accused’s and his father’s continuous pestering, the bribe “had been a long time coming.

“After I heard of the allegations, I immediately ordered an urgent local council meeting and we unanimously agreed to suspend Gatt,” he said.

Grixti said that after confronting Gatt with the bribery allegations, the latter initially said that Christian Curmi had been pestering him for quite some time, and that despite initially rejecting the bribes, he “succumbed to the temptation.”

Gatt claimed that one day, Curmi got into his car and left an envelope with cash inside.

Gatt is facing separate criminal proceedings.

Inspector Daniel Zammit is leading the prosecution while Lawyer Lucio Sciriha is defence counsel.

The case continues.