Caqnu illegal dumping acquittal confirmed on appeal

Then MEPA's Pollution Control unit had carried out an inspection in the quarry in August 2005 and noticed that the waste being dumped there was not inert

Charles Polidano, ic-Caqnu
Charles Polidano, ic-Caqnu

The acquittal of construction magnate Charles Polidano, ic-Caqnu, on charges of illegal dumping of construction waste has been confirmed on appeal.

Polidano had been accused of breaching a number of regulations in connection with the disposal of waste in a quarry at Kirkop in 2005.

Then MEPA's Pollution Control unit had carried out an inspection in the quarry in August 2005 and noticed that the waste being dumped there was not inert. The contractor responsible for the infilling was Polidano's company Eco Waste Radam Ltd, the prosecution had said, and a letter had been sent demanding the removal of the material from the quarry and giving 15 days to apply for the correct permit.

Nothing had changed by the end of that two-week period and so a stop order had been issued in September 2005, together with a letter to prosecute.

The dumping had continued for almost four months until February 28th 2006, at which point it was declared totally landfilled.

The environmental permit had still not been issued at that point, the lower courts were told.

“It is almost a field today,” an environment protection officer had testified in 2006.

Asked by that court to explain why the owner of the quarry was not charged, the MEPA representative had replied that only the person committing the breach would be charged.

In June 2013, the Court of Magistrates had declared Polidano not guilty of breaching waste disposal regulations, and in turn, the Attorney General had filed an appeal on the grounds of an “ unreasonable and manifestly mistaken evaluation of the evidence.”

The public prosecutor argued that the Court of Magistrates had rested entirely on what had allegedly been said by architect Joe Bugeja who had told it that the accused had dumped the waste “precisely in the place indicated to him by the authorities.”

The Attorney General pointed out that the transcript of architect Bugeja's testimony was not present in the case file, describing this as a serious shortcoming and pointing out that the prosecution's witness evidence had all been transcribed “whilst strangely, we do not have the transcription of the architect that was so important in the first court's decision to acquit the appellant.”

Architect Joe Bugeja was, at the time, the General Manager of the Freeport and had been engaged as an expert a number of cases about the illegal dumping of waste at sea, but not quarries, the appellant observed.

In the appeal application, the AG had pointed out that the first court had been “manifestly mistaken” when it cleared Polidano. The case had nothing to do with the Freeport or dumping of waste at sea, the AG pointed out, saying it could not understand how the first court had taken the architect's testimony into account when he had nothing to do with the case at hand.

The Court of Appeal, presided by Judge David Scicluna, observed however that the AG was requesting a re-evaluation of the evidence – something the Court of Appeal only does in exceptional cases .

The judge also noted that the architect's testimony had been given in the acts of, and was relevant to, other cases that were being heard together with this one at the time.

The court was less than complimentary about the appellant's case.

The AG had failed to bring evidence that the appellant was the director of Eco Ways Radam Ltd after charging him as such, pointed out the judge, an environment protection officer produced as a prosecution witness had appeared to be referring to the company with a slightly different name and no evidence that the trucks and machinery at the site belonged to the appellant had been exhibited.

The company in whose name the pending permit application had not been identified and even if it had been linked to the appellant company, there was still no evidence that it was carrying out the dumping, said the judge. 

Polidano's acquittal was confirmed.

Lawyers Michael Sciriha, Lucio Sciriha and Jean Paul Sammut appeared for Charles Polidano.

More in Court & Police
Four arrested in drug busts
Man found dead on Bugibba seafront
Court & Police
Yannick Pace
Mount Carmel patient dies in ward
Officers testify about 1.5kg cocaine bust
Court & Police
Matthew Agius

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition