Labour leader ‘does not recall’ making offer to scorned barman

Barman gave copy of letters to Paul Borg Olivier last September

EXPLAINER Two barmen, two incidents, one recording

The barman who ran the Labour Party club in Safi in 2009 and was sacked following the discovery of drug use in the club had asked Labour leader Joseph Muscat to clear his name after claiming he had not been given an opportunity to defend himself when he was shown the door.

Joe Gerada, a former Labour volunteer, is believed to have passed on letters he wrote to Joseph Muscat complaining of his treatment by the party, to the PN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier during the Independence celebrations last year, in September 2012.

Muscat yesterday was placed on the spot after the Nationalist Party released the contents of a letter by Gerada, complaining to Muscat of the unfair treatment he was given after being sacked.

Muscat yesterday told MaltaToday that he had accepted to have a picture taken with Gerada "as he does in all cases", at the end of a meeting with the former barman "during which [Gerada] was quite agitated and kept mentioning his family's situation," a party spokesman told this newspaper.

On his part, PN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier could not answer MaltaToday's question as to how long had the PN been aware of the letters Gerada sent to Muscat.

"I don't know... what did [Media.Link head of news] Nathaniel Agius say earlier this morning? You had better speak to him... what's relevant is that Muscat lied when he said that he was not aware of the case."

The PN claim Muscat lied after having denied being aware of the drugs incident: but Muscat today said that his denials were linked to another incident, this time in Attard, involving another barman who was sacked from the party; and only realised on Sunday that the PN's accusations on drug use inside a party club were connected to Safi.

MaltaToday is informed that Gerada had met the Labour leader in his office at the PL headquarters in Hamrun, two years after the incident, and asked for his name to be cleared after claiming that he was sacked unjustly when two young persons were discovered cutting drugs in the club's kitchen.

During this meeting, Gerada was allegedly offered the opportunity to run another party club of his choice, but Muscat told MaltaToday that he does not recall making this offer.

"The adjudication of contracts to run bar operations is in the discretion of local committees and the central administration does not involve itself with such deals. Furthermore, the Labour leader does not recall making any such offer and in fact the said person was never given the opportunity to run another club," a spokesman said.

Going by Gerada's version, during the meeting Muscat summoned a photographer to have their photo taken, as a 'guarantee' that his name was cleared since Muscat had accepted to be associated with him in the photo.

Gerada, who was accompanied to the meeting by a work colleague, also asked Muscat to withdraw the candidature of the president of Labour's Safi sectional committee for the 2012 local council elections.

Yesterday, the PN published correspondence between Gerada and Muscat, which proved that the Labour leader was aware of the 'drugs incident' first made public in the secret recording of Labour deputy leader for party affairs Toni Abela.

Abela is heard recounting the incident in a confidential meeting he held with Attard club committee members he held in 2010, and that was produced during a court sitting by Richard Vella - himself a former barman of the Attard club - who stands charged for his involvement in a brawl with Labour local councillor John Bonnici.

Abela is heard saying he sacked Gerada [although his name is not mentioned] after he disposed of an illegal "white powder" substance, but that he did not report the incident to the police because "only God knows what would have happened."

It is understood that Gerada passed on this information to the Nationalist Party in the summer of 2012 and since then, the former Labour supporter was seen at a number of public events organised by the PN. 

Also revealed yesterday by the PN, was the letter he penned on 7 August 2009 in which Gerada told Muscat: "I am greatly disappointed that the party did not act correctly in my regard. It heard the version of some committee members but I was not called to give my version of events. You sentenced me without me being present."

Gerada, born and raised in a staunch Labourite family and a long-time Labour volunteer, explained that the incident happened on 7 June 2009, when Labour supporters were celebrating the electoral victory in the European elections.

The letter explained that Gerada was behind the bar with another man, a club member, who helped him with the washing of glasses and handing him ice from the kitchen. "Two young people went into the kitchen and spread out some white powder, but I was completely unaware, so much so that I asked the club's president to go over to the kitchen and bring some ice to the bar, where he caught them in the act."

Claiming his innocence, Gerada told the Labour leader: "I am so innocent so much so that the two youths told him (the president) that I had nothing to do with it and they also told him that I was not aware of their presence in the kitchen." He ended his letter by saying that "their plan worked perfectly."

MaltaToday is informed that Gerada had taken over the Safi club shortly before the 2009 incident, at a time when the club had been closed down for a long time. Apparently he had revived the club and also forked out money of his own to refurbish the club after winning the lease contract.

In another letter sent to Muscat on 20 February 2012, Gerada wrote that he was "disgusted" by the fact that he had been kicked out, ostensibly at the club's president behest. "Not only did the party fail to take any action against him for giving me the boot unjustly, but you are now accepting him as a candidate for local elections."

Gerada reiterated his innocence: "I did not see anyone, or catch anyone taking drugs." He added that the club president, who caught the persons red-handed, did not take the necessary action despite the incident being of a criminal nature. 

"The only solution you offered was that of taking a picture with me, which according to you showed your trust in me."

Speaking in Vittoriosa yesterday morning, Muscat claimed that the photo was taken after he had informed Gerada that Labour was not changing its position. "He had asked for a photo and now I understand why," Muscat said, adding that he had no problems taking photos with anyone.

Two barmen, two incidents, one recording

Confused? You probably are: but understanding the Nationalist Party's current campaign against Labour deputy leader for party affairs Toni Abela requires that you go back to the secret recording that was published on YouTube.

Here's how it started:

Richard Vella, a former barman of Labour's Attard club, told a court - in which he faces charged for a fight he had with local councillor John Bonnici - that a recording of Abela shows the deputy leader tried to quash a police report on the incident, to avoid bad press.

Then, Nationalist whip David Agius - whose constituency is Attard - revealed he had gone to the Commissioner of Police in October 2010 to confirm that the voice in the recording was Abela's.

The recording was released on YouTube through a sock-puppet channel a few weeks ago, which has Abela speaking to Attard club committee members at the Labour headquarters over the running of the club.

In the first excerpt, Abela is heard saying that he sought out a Labourite police officer to have a police report dropped.

On his part, Abela said that Vella had reported an Attard committee member to the police for changing the locks on the bar, and that he asked the police officer to drop the report since the matter was a civil, not a criminal case.

Then, in the second excerpt of the recording, Abela is heard recounting another incident of 'bad press': where an illegal substance, euphemistically referred to as 'blokka bajda' (white block, or white powder), was found in a club kitchen and then disposed off in a rubbish bin.

Abela is heard saying he did not report the incident to the police because the evidence had been disposed of, and filing a report would have got the club president in unnecessary trouble.

The PN press pounced on this incident, asking Muscat whether he was aware of the drugs incident: Muscat replied by saying he was not aware of the case, and that the case was not connected to the Attard club incident.

However, the PN has released copies of the letter that another former barman - Joe Gerada of the Safi club - sent to Muscat, revealing that the Labour leader was aware of the Safi drugs incident since 2009, one month after it happened.

Luke Camilleri
HA JKUN INVESTIGAT IL-BARMAN tal-Blokka Joe Gerada? Mhux suppost hemm preskrizzjoni fuq kazi ta' droga! X'inhu jistenna il-Kummissarju biex jigbru?????
Hemm xi cans li dan il-barman jaghtuh mahfra pesidenzjali...min jaf forsi jikxef lil-karti. Storja bla sugu u ta' nies opportunisti u sangisugi li jaraw kif jittrakkaw ma' partit politiku. Ahdu hbieb u ohorgu lsienkon u dawn ma jerfghux resposabilta' ghal ghemilhom. Dawn in-nies m'ghandhoms x'jambuhom ebda partit politiku almenu min hu serju.
Thank you for trying to give some coherence to this story. The convoluted way the PN has presented this, probably on purposes, has confused everything. For a time I thought the issue concerned only the Attard club. There are other facts to the story however, if I am not mistaken. First that the tape goes back to 2010 and that the matter in its entirety had been investigated by the police and dismissed. Second, that this Gerada had met Joseph Muscat 2 years after the incident. So what use was this information to Muscat after two years? Doesn't it sound strange that this Safi barman should have waited two years to raise the subject given his difficult situation? And could it not be the case that Muscat refused to give him back his post because after two years he did not find this person's story capable of verification? Even the police who had investigated the story in 2010 after they were alerted by Agius failed to find any leads which give the story a semblance of fact. Or is it the case that since then this person has come to enjoy some job in a public company or office thanks to the PN and it is time for pay his dues?
Does anybody know of any barman in the world who does not know who is in his kitchen? How did they enter through the window or aircondition system? Halluna GonziPN!
"Gerada reiterated his innocence: "I did not see anyone, or catch anyone taking drugs." .... then why tell Toni Abela that you did and had cleaned up the mess thus tempering with eviudence. If anything this Gerada guy should be investigated by the police for his actions.
It is understood that Gerada passed on this information to the Nationalist Party in the summer of 2012 and since then, the former Labour supporter was seen at a number of public events organised by the PN. Sur PN jekk dan il kas vera kif qedghin issostnu intom issa qedghin tiprotegu lil dal bniedem ?? Allura jien nistaqsi minn kellu ragun Il Pl li keccih Jew minn issa qieghed joprova jitqansah hu jaghmel gwadan politiku bih ??
The bottom line is that the Commissioner of Police states that these were a non-case, in both instances. But GonziPN is an expert at blowing matters out of proportion to gain political mileage. However, try as it can, GonziPN can never deflect public attention from the far more serious crimes in the oil scandal carried out by known PN strongmen who managed to change the energy policy of Malta for the last 20 years to their advantage, and at the expense of the people.
Prosit Maltatoday li urejt il-fatti kif huma u mhux tawwig,giddeb u tahwid bhall ma qed jaghmlu il PN Eveil Clique, u fuq quddiem l-iktar wiehed il-Grande Pufo ta wiccu blu. Grazzi
How come that the interview with barman Gerada transmitted on Sunday by Net News is not uploaded anywhere. Why at least i can't find it.
Prosit Maltatoday li urejt il-fatti kif huma u mhux tawwig,giddeb u tahwid bhall ma qed jaghmlu il PN Eveil Clique, u fuq quddiem l-iktar wiehed il-Grande Pufo ta wiccu blu. Grazzi