It’s been three months since more than half of Malta’s traffic police were arrested over an alleged rocket, but with no action being taken against them, some of these officers are openly claiming the whole thing was nothing but a stitch-up.
Speaking to Lovin Malta on condition of anonymity, three traffic officers said they suspect the Economic Crimes Unit arrested them last February to deviate attention away from its inaction on alleged political corruption related to the notorious Panama Papers scandal.
In particular, they questioned why they were only arrested in February when a whistleblower had reportedly informed the police about the alleged racket back in October.
“Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla [the man in charge of the Economic Crimes Unit] was under so much pressure to work on the case of Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi from several angles but yet nothing ever happened,” they said.
“Why did Ian Abdilla want to charge the traffic police with money laundering when very few people in Malta have ever been prosecuted for that? What interest did he have in instructing his inspectors to investigate the traffic section?”
“Isn’t this supposed to have been the work of the police’s Internal Affairs Unit, who should have started investigating it as soon as they found out about in October?”
“If you know of suspected wrongdoing but don’t do anything about it, doesn’t that make you complicit? Shouldn’t they have started investigating internally as soon as they received the whistleblower’s report?”
“But no, they didn’t, because there’s dirt everywhere you look.”
The alleged racket at the Traffic Section revolved around police officers who were paid for extra duties they never carried out, but the investigation later expanded into allegations that officers had disabled the GPS on their vehicles, siphoned fuel out of their police vehicles into their personal ones, and even forgave traffic fines in return for sexual favours.
Earlier today, Times of Malta quoted police sources involved in the investigation as confirming that the Economic Crimes Unit intends to charge traffic police officers with money laundering.
However, the officers who spoke to Lovin Malta said that while it is possible they were paid in excess for extra duties, this is an administrative issue which should have been handled by the Internal Affairs Unit and certainly didn’t warrant a full-blown investigation by the Economic Crimes Unit. They vehemently deny any allegations of fuel theft, disabling their tracking devices and sexual favours.
Moreover, they said the timing of their arrest was significant, so soon after Malta failed a test by the Council of Europe’s money laundering monitoring body Moneyval, in no small part due to the Economic Crimes Unit’s failure to adequately investigate and prosecute financial crime.
Last month, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said that while he is confident in Malta’s prospects of passing the Moneyval test, he remains unsatisfied with the state of the police’s Economic Crimes Unit.
“I admit that we are not satisfied with all he reforms and improvements in the Economic Crimes Unit,” he said. “They don’t have the right level of resources or structuring and they haven’t yet managed to attract the type of professionals one should require in a proper ECU.
“But we have now removed the monopoly of the police, with the Attorney General able to trigger prosecutions without the police. We are also expanding the FIAU so they can have a prosecuting function too.”
Questions sent by Lovin Malta to the police remain unanswered as of the time of writing.