MCCF board had not discussed 2015 Paqpaqli show before event

Chairman of the MCCF says board took no decisions and knew nothing about the event

The chairman of the board of administrators of the Malta Community Chest Fund, John Camilleri, has told a court that the board had not discussed the 2015 Paqpaqli car show in its meetings before the event.

Testifying in proceedings against 13 members of the organising committee, Camilleri was grilled at length by lawyers on both sides of the case during Tuesday’s sitting.

The 13-member core organising committee for Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina, Paul Bailey, Tonio Darmanin, Tonio Cini, Agostino Degiorgio, Jonathan Tonna, Kevin Perry, Melvin Haber, Ian Keith Cilia Pisani, Jonathan Bruno, Julian Mannara, Christopher Sultana, David Bugeja and Brian Gatt are accused of involuntarily causing grievous bodily harm, as well damage to various motor vehicles, through imprudence, carelessness and non-observance of regulations.

During today’s lengthy sitting, it emerged that the driver of the Porsche Spyder which crashed into spectators at the event had been hosted at San Anton Palace before the day of the accident and had returned there after his discharge from hospital.

Yet, the chairman on the board of administrators of the MCCF, John Camilleri, declared that he had known nothing of this hosting arrangement before tragedy struck and only got to know after the accident.

It was only then that he had become aware that Paul Bailey and his wife had been staying at a suite inside the presidential palace, returning there even after receiving medical treatment after the crash.

Before magistrate Aaron Bugeja earlier today, Camilleri explained that, before the accident, the board of administrators had only met three times and had not engaged in any discussion regarding the Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina event.

In reply to a question from the presiding magistrate, Camilleri said that he had ‘no idea’ as to whether there had existed any form of written agreement or document to regulate the relationship between the MCCF and the event organisers.

Asked by lawyer Roberto Montalto whether he could identify any of the core committee members seated in court, the chairman said that he formerly only knew Tonio Darmanin, having only become acquainted with the others over the past months.

Montalto questioned how Camilleri knew nothing about the organising committee when one of his own staff had been involved, but Camilleri insisted that there had been no interaction between the MCCF and the Paqpaqli organisers, adding that he had known nothing about the 2015 programme of events and had never personally visited the show.

When presented with a receipt issued by an insurer in respect of the event, addressed to the Office of the President, c/o MCCF, and covering the MCCF as well as Paqpaqli Productions, Camilleri stated that the MCCF had not applied for this insurance. “We paid for it but I assume it was applied for by the core committee”.

Cross-examined by lawyer Reuben Farrugia about who was authorised to act on behalf of the MCCF, the chairman, after referring to the statute, said that all members of the board of administrators acted jointly.

Pressed further by the lawyers, he emphasised that the board “absolutely took no decision and knew nothing of the event” adding that he had “got no handover from Mark Mallia or anyone else” in reply to a question by lawyer Giannella Demarco.

When Demarco asked how the core committee had obtained permission to hold meetings inside ‘the small dining room or De Paule Hall’ at San Anton, his workplace, Camilleri was unable reply with certainty.

“Do you see all these men here? Did they all enter San Anton in secret?” DeMarco asked.

“I never gave permission, was never aware of the meetings and never chanced upon them” insisted the witness.

Another witness, Roberta Cesareo, who served as secretary to the core committee for a few months before the 2015 event on a voluntary basis, confirmed that it was normal practice to meet at San Anton, adding that members of the MCCF and the OPR always attended and played an important role in the meetings.

Recalling her last meeting, attended by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Cesareo confirmed an introductory minute which read that “Her Excellency informed all present that any assistance from OPR would be provided at all levels, including logistics, marketing and volunteers”.

Carm Briffa, secretary to the President, told the court how things had changed under the current Presidency. He confirmed what had been said by other witnesses, that Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina was a third party event, the organisation of which was left in the hands of third parties since the MCCF lacked the expertise to organise it.

Police inspectors Josric Mifsud, Silvio Magro and Hubert Cini are prosecuting.

Lawyers Giannella DeMarco and Stephen Tonna Lowell are counsel to Paul Bailey. Lawyer Joe Giglio is counsel to Tonio Darmanin. Lawyer Stefano Filletti is counsel to Brian Gatt and Julian Manara.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi is defence counsel for Ian Cilia Pisani, Kevin Perry and Chris Sultana. Other members of the Paqpaqli team are being assisted by Michael Sciriha, Raphael Fenech Adami and Albert Zerafa.

Franco Debono, Amadeus Cachia, Roberto Montalto, Michael Grech, Shazoo Ghaznavi, Alessia Zammit Mackeon and Reuben Farrugia are among the lawyers appearing parte civile for the victims.

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