Court messenger convicted of hiding drug trafficking case file

The man was found guilty of complicity in theft, the magistrate placed Vassallo under a three-year probation order, as well as ordering him to complete 480 hours of community service

The man was found guilty and placed on probation
The man was found guilty and placed on probation

One of two court messengers accused of stealing a case file relating to a drug trafficking case has been found guilty and placed on probation.

The two court employees, Edwin Vassallo, 57, from Kalkara and Joseph Bezzina, 62, from Valletta were investigated by the police after the file containing evidence against Angel Attard disappeared from the court building in April 2017.

It was established that the last people who had access to the file were Vassallo and Bezzina, who were then hauled before the inquiring magistrate.

The pair blamed each other, each saying that the other had made the initial approach. Bezzina insisted that Vassallo had asked him to hide the file and after he had locked it away in a courtroom, he had panicked and gone to report to his superiors. Vassallo, on the other hand said that it had been Bezzina who had asked him if he wanted some extra cash, offering €5,000-10,000, to hide the file.

The two men had been arraigned separately by police inspector Frank Anthony Tabone.

Vassallo’s case was assigned to magistrate Joseph Mifsud.

The magistrate, after analysing the men’s statements said he found Vassallo’s more credible. Vassallo had claimed that after he had given the file to Bezzina, he had no idea what had happened to it.

The court heard how, instead of taking the file to the courtroom where the compilation of evidence was being heard, Vassallo had taken it to the magistrate’s chambers where Bezzina worked.

Vassallo was cleared of destroying evidence, but convicted of the theft of the file with the Magistrate noting that it did not appear that he had received or requested any reward for doing so.

Passing sentence on Vassallo, the magistrate took into account reports by a social worker who had said that the case had had an enormous impact on the man, who had no prior convictions, and his family. Vassallo had been suspended from duty for the past two years and was looking for work elsewhere, observed the court.

The court said that during the hearing of the case it had clearly emerged that Vassallo should seek help to “improve his social skills, be more assertive and not to feel the need to place others on a pedestal.”

It was saddening to see Vassallo’s distinguished career record stained because he lacked the strength to resist his colleague’s criminal proposal, said the court.

“When a person is assigned work in the Court with the judiciary, this is a job with a high level of trust and that which occurred in this case is so serious that had the court administration and the police not taken immediate action there could have been very serious consequences, possibly leading to the undermining of the judicial process on serious charges of drug trafficking.”

Finding the man guilty of complicity in theft, the magistrate placed Vassallo under a three-year probation order, as well as ordering him to complete 480 hours of community service.

Lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia were defence counsel.