Man cleared of stealing bus parts on appeal

The court noted that there was ‘not a trace of evidence’ to show that the stolen parts had actually been purchased by the company which was claiming to have had them stolen from it

The court found there was nothing linking the stolen parts to the company that claimed Orazio Spiteri had stolen them from it
The court found there was nothing linking the stolen parts to the company that claimed Orazio Spiteri had stolen them from it

A man convicted of buying stolen bus parts has been acquitted on appeal, after a court found nothing to tie him to the stolen objects.

Orazio Spiteri had been accused in 2010 of buying air compressors stolen from the company Waterbus ltd.

Spiteri’s ordeal began when a certain Stephen Smith had gone to the appellant’s workshop and spotted a compressor which he claimed had been stolen from his factory. The police were informed in October 2010, but the crime had taken place in April 2010.

The injured party hadn’t filed a police report earlier because of a stock take took up all his time, the court was told.

The Court of Magistrates had found Spiteri guilty in 2013 and handed him a two-year prison sentence, suspended to four years. He was also ordered to pay €529 for the appointment of experts.

Spiteri appealed, his lawyers Michael and Lucio Sciriha arguing that his conviction was not safe and satisfactory. All the documents exhibited were simply quotations, invoices (not for WaterBus) and various documents from the company Zonda which weren’t signed, notarised or apostilled, they said.

In fact, there was no evidence to show that the compressors had been bought by Waterbus, argued the lawyers, and the victim had never indicated the serial numbers of the stolen compressors to the court.

“Even a simple washing machine or vacuum cleaner today comes with a guarantee and a serial number” Spiteri’s lawyer had argued, pointing out that that there were “no importation documents, no ledgers, no ship name, no bill of lading and no log books.”

The alleged victim had exhibited a number of invoices which ironically “clearly showed that these allegedly stolen compressors aren’t even the property of Waterbus Limited,” but belonged to another company, GS Specialist Vehicle ltd.

No explanation of the connection between GS Specialist Vehicle Limited and Waterbus Limited was provided, said the lawyers.

The court observed that these arguments were highly relevant and surrounded the facts which the prosecution was obliged to bring evidence of beyond reasonable doubt to trigger the presumption that the accused could have reasonably suspected that the objects were of illicit provenance.

“How can the victim say the objects are his when where we have a situation where…[the objects] were stolen in April 2010 but reported them as stolen only five months later, the day before the search and arrest warrant was issued against Orazio Spiteri. How can the victim allege they are his when no official MFSA documents were exhibited or representatives summoned to testify on the connection between Waterbus Limited and the witnesses produced?”

Not one paper in the entire court file mentioned Waterbus Limited, said presiding judge Antonio Mizzi.

There was “not a trace of evidence” to show that Waterbus limited bought the compressors it claims were stolen, in the court file, he said.  This all showed that the connection between Waterbus Ltd and the compressors did not exist, ruled the court, overturning the conviction and acquitting Spiteri.

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