A former Maltese customs official has been found guilty of accepting a box of soft drinks as a bribe to allow a Libyan man access to a restricted area of Malta International Airport.
Philip Grech, 64 from Żebbuġ, admitted to accepting the bribe in 2013, allowing Jamal Mesdah Basher Al Gazale to enter a restricted zone where the luggage conveyor belt was situated.
CCTV footage caught Al Gazale picking up 12 boxes from the restricted area, with other customs officers on duty seemingly not asking him what he was doing there.
The room he entered featured a door that could only be opened from the inside by means of a sensor, meaning only officials with specific access could enter the area.
Footage revealed that not only was Al Gazale accompanied by an official to the room, but the official helped Al Gazale load up 12 boxes from the conveyor belt to the trolley.
However, although 12 boxes were taken, Al Gazale was seen leaving the area with only 11. Later on, the missing box was found in Grech’s office.
Grech, who has since retired, was sentenced to 65 hours of community service, perpetual general interdiction which prevents him from holding any form of public office or employment, and ordered to pay €742 in costs
In the court sitting, prosecuting police Inspector Jonathan Ferris explained how, on September 25, 2013, he was told that someone had been seen entering the restricted zone after being given access by a Maltese customs officials. Ferris noted that Grech was the duty customs official that day.
Strangely, Grech had told a police inspector he found the soft drinks to be “awful”, and that the drinks were often used by practicing Muslims during the Ramadan fast to quickly stock up on calories. While no soft drink brand was mentioned, the carbonated blackcurrant beverage Vimto is known to be the most popular soft drink among practising Muslims during Ramadan.
Though Grech had originally denied the charges, he eventually admitted to accepting the bribery in February 2019, continuing to say that he had accepted the box of soft drinks as a payment of courtesy.
Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, taking into account the nature of the charges, the late admission of Grech’s, the recommendations of his Probation Officer, and his lack of a criminal record, sentenced him today.
Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb prosecuted. Lawyer Stefano Filletti was defence counsel.