Former Sliema mayor Nikki Dimech cleared of bribery

The former mayor was cleared of the charges against him after a Court of Appeal ordered the case to be heard afresh

Former Sliema mayor Nikki Dimech
Former Sliema mayor Nikki Dimech

Former Sliema mayor Nicholas Dimech has been cleared of threatening a public officer and bribery after his case was heard anew.

The Court of Appeal had ordered the case to be heard afresh after a Magistrates’ Court had jailed the former mayor for a year.

Dimech had been accused of demanding a bribe from the Sliema council’s former contracts manager Stephen Buhagiar, who claimed that the former mayor had asked for money in return for a contract of services he had secured with the council.

The contract was assigned for a trial period of six months in September 2009, on condition that it could be terminated if Buhagiar’s service was deemed unsatisfactory.

This is in fact what happened and the council had terminated the contract by a vote of eight to one in March 2010. Buhagiar then promptly filed a police report claiming that he had been overlooked because he had not handed over the bribe to the then-mayor.

Magistrate Joseph Mifsud, in his judgment on the case, highlighted the fact that when he was assigned to the case, both parties had declined to request the re-hearing of witnesses. It was only the accused who, had testified before magistrate Mifsud, giving the magistrate a detailed account of alleged psychological violence he suffered during his interrogation.

The court observed that Buhagiar had only reported the matter to the police after his contract had been terminated, telling other councilors that he wanted to “get back at [Dimech]”.

The accused’s own statement to the police, released without the assistance of a lawyer, was to be discarded on the strength of consistent case law on this matter, the court observed.

Having seen all the evidence, the court ruled that the former mayor handed the tender to the bidder who had presented the most economically viable option to the council.

The matter would have been different had the contract been awarded to a person not deserving it, simply on account of some underhand bribe, the court observed.

After Buhagiar’s services were deemed unsatisfactory, the council had ended the agreement and awarded the contract to the second-best bidder.

Lawyers Mark Vassallo and Edward Gatt appeared for Dimech.

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