Police Commissioner says no government influence on Engerer investigation

Commissioner takes stand in libel case instituted by Prime Minister's chief of staff.

Commissioner of Police John Rizzo has denied having been influenced by third parties during any police investigation or discussing cases with a government minister, in testimony he gave for the court libel instituted by Lawrence Gonzi's chief of staff Edgar Galea-Curmi against Mediatoday managing editor Saviour Balzan and One News editor Kurt Farrugia.

The case dates to a 2011 operation by the police to arrest Chris Engerer, the father of former Nationalist councillor turned Labour candidate Cyrus Engerer, on charges of cannabis possession.

Criticism on the sting, which came just two days after Engerer's formal breakaway from the party, led Rizzo to call for a government inquiry into the way the police had handled two criminal cases: the drug bust on Chris Engerer, and harassment charges filed against Cyrus Engerer by a former boyfriend.

Engerer had been charged with having circulated explicit pictures of his partner, while his father was arrested outside his house in Sliema in possession of 5 grammes of cannabis.

Rizzo did admit to having received a phone call from Edgar Galea-Curmi the day after Chris Engerer was arrested. According to Rizzo, Galea Curmi called asking about the case.

Galea Curmi was in fact calling Rizzo after meeting Cyrus Engerer in Mdina, the latter asking the PM's chief of staff whether his father's arrest had been politically motivated due to the coincidental circumstance of his recent departure from the party.

In a press conference that followed the arrest in July 2011, Rizzo told jounalists: "He [Galea Curmi] asked me to do something which I couldn't do."

"I told him that one day or another the truth would come out in court, and I didn't need to explain anything to the lawyers. God forbid the police would have to work in this way..."

Taking the stand Friday morning, the Commissioner said that following a raid on Chris Engerer's premises, assistant commissioner Neil Harrison informed him that Engerer was making allegations against the police, saying the raid was politically motivated because his son had just resigned from the PN.

Rizzo pointed out that he immediately informed then Justice and Home Affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici of the situation. Rizzo explained that the former minister called him back to ask him if he knew anything about a case involving Cyrus Engerer.

He however denied that he had been in any way influenced by Galea Curmi or anyone else for that matter in any investigation.

He said that the only person he consulted during investigations was the Attorney General.

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