Updated | Three Identity Malta employees admit to corruption charges

Police charge five - all in their twenties - for accepting bribes in return for issuing residence permits • Monti hawker and one Identity Malta employee plead not guilty

Three Identity Malta employees have been handed suspended sentences after admitting to accepting bribes in return for issuing residence permits between January and August 2015.

Another Identity Malta employee and a monti hawker pleaded not guilty. All the accused are in their twenties.

All five were charged with complicity in unlawful exaction, trading in influence, bribery and complicity in the submission of false declarations to a public authority.

Police Inspectors Rennie Stivala and Yvonne Farrugia, did not object to the defence’s request that bail be granted to the two who pleaded not guilty whilst a suspended sentence be handed down to those who pleaded guilty, noting that they had cooperated with the police and obeyed the conditions of their police bail.

Magistrate Audrey Demicoli granted one 21-year-old male employee from Hamrun bail against a deposit of €800 and personal guarantee of €3,000, also ordering him to sign a bail book twice a week, after he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Two female employees, aged 24 and 21 respectively, pleaded guilty and were handed a two-year prison sentence suspended for four years.

A 28-year-old  hawker from Bahar ic-Caghaq, accused of acting as a go-between, was granted bail against a deposit of €800 and personal guarantee of €3,000.He was also ordered to sign the bail book twice a week.

The names of the accused, who are all in their twenties, are being withheld due to an ongoing police investigation.

Lawyers Roberto Montalto, Franco Debono, Kathleen Grima, Joseph Gatt and Maria Azzopardi appeared for the accused.

The arraignment follows a raid, last September, by police from the Economic Crimes Unit at the office of Identity Malta, in which a number of people were arrested for interrogation.

The raid followed investigations into the alleged abuse, which the government claimed was also a result of "checks and balances introduced at Identity Malta and the Employment and Training Corporation."

Confirming that a racket in the issuance of residence permits has been "ongiong for a number of years," government said the arraignments came after it had flagged the irregularities itself.

The investigation was initiated upon information received by the government and passed on to the Security Service.

“This is concrete proof that government is taking the fight against corruption seriously,” the statement said, adding that following the police’s initial investigations and government’s “prudence” more people were exposed.