Restaurant owner cleared of €45,000 electricity theft as charges filed three years too late

Restauranteur acquitted of stealing €45,600 worth of electricity after case against him was declared time-barred.

A restauranteur has been acquitted of stealing €45,600 worth of electricity after the case against him was declared time-barred.

Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera was told how charges had been filed against 64 year-old Gaetano Falzon, who owns Chez Gaetano Restaurant in Bugibba, in September 2013 – a full eight years after a surprise inspection by Enemalta had found a tampered meter.

The electricity theft was alleged to have taken place over five years starting in July 2000, and Enemalta employees had testified to finding a number of broken seals on the restaurant's electricity meter.

Further investigations revealed that the restaurant was also being supplied by an unmetered electricity cable – likely to have been fitted by an Enemalta employee, as its installation would have required a temporary suspension of the power supply to the area.

In calculating the loss in revenue, Enemalta compared the consumption during the five-year unmetered period, with that registered in the subsequent months after the situation was rectified.

However, Falzon's defense had argued that, as the charges carried a maximum three-year prison sentence, they would be time-barred by the lapse of five years. Falzon was charged after 8 years had elapsed.

Magistrate Scerri Herrera had no option but to acquit the accused due to the time-barring of the charges as a result. In the ensuing judgment, the magistrate held that although the prosecution had proven its case, guilt could not be found as more than five years had elapsed between the incident and the charges.

Lawyer Gianluca Cappitta appeared for the accused.