MP who used government workers for PN club works, loses libel cases

Nationalist MP Toni Bezzina had sued two newspapers for libel over reports that government workers under his management had been told to carry out works at a PN club during working hours

PN MP Anthony Bezzina
PN MP Anthony Bezzina

Nationalist MP Toni Bezzina has lost two libel cases he filed against two newspapers in 2012, surrounding allegations that he had forced workers had been told to carry out works at a PN club during working hours.

The libel cases were instituted in 2012, over reports that Bezzina – a former government architect at the then Resources Ministry – had engaged workers from the works department to carry out maintenance works on the PN club in Zurrieq using government-owned materials.

The Labour media had also revealed that three workers had been forced to sign a false declaration.

Bezzina is set to appeal the judgement.

Taking umbrage at the reports, Bezzina had sued both then il-Kulhadd editor Toni Abela and l-Orizzont editor Josef Caruana for libel.

In both judgements, the court, presided by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale,  established that in March 2012, Bezzina was the head of the rapid intervention unit within the resources ministry and that he was also the president of the PN’s sectional committee in Zurrieq.

A few days before the local councils elections, Bezzina asked Joseph Borda – a principal technical officer in the same department and therefore a subordinate – to send three workers to the PN’s party club in Zurrieq to carry out maintenance works.

Borda approached three workers – Charles Curmi, Paul Inguanez and Mario Bugeja – who after finishing off from works in Ta Xbiex drove to Zurrieq where they met Borda.

The three workers spent between two to three afternoons working on the PN club. Days after the works were completed, the story appeared in the newspapers.

After hearing the testimonies, the court established that Bezzina and Borda called the three men to Bezzina’s office where they were given a document. A few days later, Borda took the three men to the office of a notary to sign a document under oath.

“It transpires that the three workers did not want to sign the affidavit but were eventually convinced to do so,” the court said.

Borda was not asked to testify in the libel proceedings.

Inguanez would later sign a second affidavit to deny the contents of the first document.

Bezzina insisted that it was not true that the three men were told to work during work hours. Howevever, all three workers said their working hours were until 4.30pm. Therefore, the workers said, the hours fell within their schedule.

The court said the facts as reported by l-Orizzont have been proven and it also transpired that Bezzina had drafted the declaration which was later signed by the three workers.

“It has also been proven that the workers were taken to the office of a notary trusted by Bezzina to sign a second affidavit under oath.”

The magistrate pointed that it was the newspapers’ duty to report cases which involved public persons and to ensure that the citizens are aware of decisions taken by politicians.