Bishop calls for amicable settlement to Guatemala slander case

Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech has appealed for the amicable settlement of a case of a Guatemala-based priest who was allegedly slandered by a former volunteer

Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech has appealed for the amicable settlement of a case of a Guatemala-based priest who was allegedly slandered by a former volunteer.

His Excellency took the witness stand in the case against Luigi (Wigi) Duca, who is charged with  fabricating evidence of a non-existent crime, making a false report to the police, knowingly reporting the leader of the Guatemalan mission, Fr. Anton Grech, to the authorities for a crime he hadn't committed, defamation and slander.

Duca, a well-to-do benefactor had insisted on building a village to help the poor in Guatemala. The priest had insisted that a committee be appointed to manage the funds properly, but without Fr Grech’s knowledge, Duca had started collecting money for the Guatemala mission while in Malta. In a previous sitting, Fr Grech had told magistrate Joe Mifsud that he had no knowledge of how much was actually collected, however confirmed that funds did pass on to his mission.

Bishop Mario Grech this morning explained that he had been spoken to by Duca about Dun Anton. “Duca came to me accompanied by Fr Joe Inguanez and complained that his rapport with Dun Anton was not correct. He made a number of allegations which were... not light, so I asked him to make a written statement.” The complaints were of misuse of funds, explained the bishop, adding that he had looked into the allegations and found them to be untrue. “They did not result”

Fr Anton Grech’s reply was deemed satisfactory, said the Gozo bishop. The Bishop of Izibar, Fr Grech’s diocese, had also written a praiseworthy assessment of Fr. Grech, he said.

The bishop had never heard anything bad being said about Grech or received any complaints. All the feedback he received was good, he said.

“I tried to call Duca as he had left me his phone number, but for some reason we never communicated. I eventually wrote him a letter.

Lawyer Kathleen Grima asked how Duca had communicated the allegations. Duca had asked for an appointment and was accompanied by Fr. Joe Inguanez, he replied.

Lawyer Franco Debono asked the witness about Duca’s  voluntary work. “Until I met him I had this impression that he did voluntary work,” replied the bishop, cryptically.

The bishop appealed to the parties to reach an amicable settlement, a sentiment echoed by the court. “You know where this case is headed,” the magistrate warned several times.

Fr. Anton Grech’s brother Stefan Grech took the stand next. He explained how the funds gathered would be sent to Guatemala, via bank transfer from his father. Photos of progress would be sent to families who donated to the project.

Duca had never complained, said the man. “I was really surprised at what happened afterwards. He had never complained about anything. He would visit regularly...he had first hand information on what was happening with the project.”

As the sitting drew to a close, the Magistrate again chided the parties, saying it was the fifth time that he was asking for this to be resolved amicably. “A lot of good work was being spoiled by the later misdeeds,” he said.
The case continues in February.


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