‘Did Gozo minister Anton Refalo request Bogdanovic release?’ PN shadow minister asks

Anton Refalo lashes out and demands Jason Azzopardi state his claims without availing himself of parliamentary immunity, but does not deny the allegations

Left: Daniel Bogdanovic. Right: file photo shows Anton Refalo
Left: Daniel Bogdanovic. Right: file photo shows Anton Refalo

Shadow home affairs minister Jason Azzopardi has suggested in the House of Representatives that it was Gozo minister Anton Refalo who called up the police on Sunday to have Xewkija Tigers’ midfielder Daniel Bogdanovic released from arrest to play football that same afternoon.

Azzopardi was speaking on a Bill amending the Criminal Code on Monday evening, but was emphatic in his suggestion that it was Refalo himself who contacted Superintendent Antonello Grech to request the release of the former Malta international over a domestic violence incident.

READ MORE Ministry official told police: ‘Get Bogdanovic to the football ground’

“On Sunday, the superintendent gave an order for Bogdanovic’s release, and the detainee was given police bail,” Azzopardi said. “And the superintendent certainly has much to answer for.”

Azzopardi added that it was “not the first time” that Gozo minister Anton Refalo, who in the past has assisted the club administration of Xewkija Tigers, that he had interfered with police matters in Gozo.

“These things don’t make sense. How can someone be arrested, then given police bail to play football, and then arrested again on Monday? Police bail is given only when the detainee is about to arraigned weeks later, not when he is going to be arrested the next morning.

“If he was arraigned under arrest, then it was for a serious reason. So why was he allowed to tamper with evidence… allowed to go and have fun to play football? How must people feel to know that the law can be applied differently in their case?”

In a point of order raised by Anton Refalo, who arrived some 15 minutes after Azzopardi’s comments in his speech, the minister did not deny outright the allegation.

“I want him to substantiate what he said, that I interfered in the administration of justice. I challenge him to say this outside the House, or to provide some form of proof that I interfered,” Refalo said – he then started calling Azzopardi “chicken” repeatedly.

Azzopardi retorted that his were a series of questions, while Refalo continued in his loud complaints to the Speaker.

Xewkija midfielder Daniel Bogdanovic
Xewkija midfielder Daniel Bogdanovic

Internal inquiry

The government has ordered an internal inquiry into the release of Daniel Bogdanovic of Sunday 30 October, a day after he was arrested for threatening his wife and carrying a licensed firearm outside the Ghajnsielem premises it was registered to be kept at. He was granted release from his arrest on Sunday 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.

He was later arraigned under arrest the next day Monday 1 November.

Crucial to his release on Sunday, a police source told MaltaToday, was a call from a government ministry official, MaltaToday reported, 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, officially, in the Gozo courts,” MaltaToday’s source, who insisted on anonymity, said.

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

Xewkija Tigers’ current coach, Jesmond Zammit, has suspended himself from the post of head of secretariat of the parliamentary secretary for EU funds, Ian Borg. MaltaToday is not suggesting that Zammit is involved with Bogdanovic’s release from arrest.

“The police simply acquiesced,” the police source said. “There is no doubt that this was a dangerous incident that did not merit this kind of leniency, not when the victim of the domestic incident could have been placed in danger of retribution. And for what reason: to play a football match on Sunday, to Xewkija Tigers’ benefit? At the very least, this was totally unorthodox.”

The Opposition has complained that former army brigadier is a relative of Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela.