Former Sliema councillor Patrick Pace cleared of bribery

Patrick Pace had been charged with allegedly accepting a total of €5,000 in bribes for his vote on council decisions whilst serving on the local council.

A court has cleared a former councillor on the Sliema local council of accepting bribes from ex-mayor Nikki Dimech in 2009-2010, after ruling that there was no ‘criminal pact’ between the two men.

Patrick Pace, who had been part of the Sliema Local Council at the time, had been charged with accepting a total of €5,000 in bribes for his vote on council decisions whilst serving on the local council.

Between November 2009 and April 2010, Nikki Dimech, the Mayor at the time, had addressed two cheques for €3,000 and €2,000 to Pace. It was alleged that these payments were intended to bribe Pace to vote according to Dimech's wishes.

Pace had consistently denied the charges and explained that the money had been borrowed, not gifted.

He told magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona how, in 2009 Nikki Dimech, the mayor at the time, had offered to lend him €3,000 pending the payment of a regular ‘allowance’ which had not yet been issued. Four months later, Dimech had offered to issue a second cheque, for €2,000, when he had been told that Pace was not in a position to refund the first amount.

Pace had heard about Dimech's prosecution and the subsequent motion for his removal from office in August 2010, while Pace had been in Russia.

He remembered that the Mayor had once told him that he was willing to hand him some money “should you support me in council decisions,” he said.

After returning to Malta, the accused had cast the deciding vote in favour of Dimech's removal, the other votes being tied.

The accused insisted that he always performed his duties without asking for or receiving any money in return, aside from the €5,000 loan.

Pace vehemently denied accepting any bribes, claiming to have carried out his duties even in the face of threats and had always voted along party lines, unless the vote was a free one.

Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona found for the defendant, ruling that the prosecution had not provided sufficient evidence to disprove the accused's explanation and had failed to prove allegations concerning votes about illegal tenders.

Explaining that the offence of bribery consisted of a voluntary agreement between a public officer and an accomplice, leading to a ‘criminal pact’ the court noted that there was no evidence of such a pact and acquitted the former councillor of the charges.

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