Police racket: arrests rise to 41

Number of officers arrested in connection with police racket rises to 41, with 25 suspended and seven having stepped down

41 officers from the police traffic branch have been arrested to date
41 officers from the police traffic branch have been arrested to date

The number of police officers arrested in connection with an overtime abuse and protection money racket has risen to 41, a police update today says.

Of the 41 officers from the traffic management unit, 25 have been suspended, seven stepped down and 31 are out on police bail.

The police also clarified that its reference to the generic term “overtime” specifically refers to the abuse of extra duty payments, which are paid when police officers render services to third parties while they are off work.

The corruption in the police traffic branch was exposed by a whistleblower, who has claimed officers collected “protection money” from major construction firms and transport companies to turn a blind eye on traffic contraventions and other violations.

The whistleblower revealed in December that several members of the traffic branch were collecting cash and gifts from companies, in a practice that had been ongoing for a number of years, and with the money going into a bank account administered by a particular police officer and later paid out to the rest, according to a report in The Malta Independent.

The Internal Affairs Unit was told that officers would log into the Local Enforcement System Authority (LESA) system, which they have access to, to suspend pending fines.

The traffic section’s superintendent Walter Spiteri, resigned on Wednesday after he came under investigation for his role in the suspected extra duty fraud.

Police from other divisions have been called in to fill in for the arrested officers, while LESA and Transport Malta are also assisting.

It is understood that officers from the traffic branch were paid thousands in extra duty payments as part of contracted work by Infrastructure Malta.

Sources close to the investigation said some officers would not turn up but still get paid in a scheme that also involved high-ranking officers.

The investigation also revealed that most motorbikes used by the police had their tracking devices removed or disabled, making it hard to pinpoint their location.

The sources said the investigation, which was entrusted to the Economic Crimes Unit, used sophisticated methods to trace the location of police officers, matching this with their extra duty detail.

The investigation has taken hours of work to piece together a comprehensive picture of abuse.

However, it appears that this was not the only abuse perpetrated by officers in the traffic branch and the investigation is expected to cast a wider net.

In some instances, officers were receiving payments for extra duty on private jobs by skiving from work.