Update 2 | Internal inquiry ordered into Bogdanovic saga, government official suspends himself

Government orders inquiry following MaltaToday revelations that former Daniel Bogdanovic was released from arrest after a government official requested he be allowed to play a football match • Government official and Xewkija Tigers coach Jesmond Zammit suspends himself pending inquiry, PN decry 'institutional abuse'

Xewkija midfielder Daniel Bogdanovic
Xewkija midfielder Daniel Bogdanovic

The government has ordered an inquiry into the revelations by MaltaToday that police released former Malta international Daniel Bogdanovic from arrest after a request by a government official.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the government said it appointed an internal board of inquiry to investigate the release of Bogdanovic and the intervention of the unnamed government official.

The inquiry will be headed by former AFM Brigadier Carmel Vassallo and has to make a report of its findings within three weeks.

Former AFM Brigadier Carmel Vassallo (pictured) will lead an internal inquiry into the release of Daniel Bogdanovic from police custody
Former AFM Brigadier Carmel Vassallo (pictured) will lead an internal inquiry into the release of Daniel Bogdanovic from police custody

“The police have denied the claims and are insisting that all procedures were followed.

"Nonetheless, an internal board of inquiry has been commissioned to ensure accountability and transparency. The inquiry will investigate whether the law was followed, and will seek to establish whether any external pressure was exerted," it said. 

The government said the inquiry would also investigate the adequacy of the procedures used in cases of domestic violence, and whether the law was broken.

In a separate statement, the parliamentary secretariat for EU funds announced that its head of secretariat Jesmond Zammit - who is also the coach of Xewkija Tigers - suspended himself pending the inquiry. Zammit has denied interfering in the police's investigation.

MaltaToday reported today that Bogdanovic was arrested for threatening his wife and carrying a licensed gun outside his Ghajnsielem residence late last Saturday evening, only for then to be granted release from his arrest just hours after being hauled into custody by the Gozo police, to make a 3pm kick-off next day for a match between Bogdanovic’s Xewkija Tigers and Kercem at 3pm.

There was no official press statement issued by the police on Saturday, 29 Otober when the 36-year-old midfielder was placed under arrest over the domestic incident that included threats against his wife. It was only on Monday at 1:30pm, that the police force issued a statement stating that the man – name not published – had been arraigned before Magistrate Joanne Vella Cuschieri, and released from his arrest under certain conditions.

Crucial to his release on Sunday, a police source told MaltaToday, was a call from a government ministry official, requesting Gozo police to allow Bogdanovic to play.

“It was a call that came straight from one of the ministerial secretariats, to a high police official in Gozo aware of Bogdanovic’s arrest. Xewkija needed him to play Kercem, and he was allowed to play before being presented under arrest, official in the Gozo courts, a police source, who insisted on his anonymity, said.

Bogdanovic’s release from custody – as well as the interference of the unnamed ministry official – was heavily criticised by shadow minister Jason Azzopardi, who on Sunday said the police involved were “corrupt”. In a series of tweets, the Opposition MP questioned whether Bogdanovic was granted police bail and questioned whether the law on police bail was followed by the police.

“They allowed free a suspect in a serious crime during detention risking tampering of evidence,” Azzopardi said.

Similarly, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola  said the release of the former Malta International footballer was “surreal”.

'Police bowing to politicians' demands' - Beppe Fenech Adami

In a statement, Beppe Fenech Adami, the Nationalist Party's deputy leader and shadow home affairs minister, accused the police of bowing to politicians' demands and insisted that "the interference of a government official is another scandal that reveals how the Muscat government is abusing the country's institutions."

"The Nationalist Party implores Joseph Muscat to take action on this serious case ... Muscat must ensure that all the necessary steps will be taken against anyone involved." 

"It is scandalous that pressure exerted by a person of trust in Ian Borg's secretariat led to the release of a person under arrest so he be allowed to play a football match," Fenech Adami said.