President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s claim not to be responsible for the management of a charity motorshow in 2015 which saw 23 people injured in a supercar crash was cast into doubt today by none other than her predecessor and President Emeritus George Abela.
Two weeks ago, Coleiro Preca told a court she didn’t have a direct role in the organisation of the Paqpaqli ghall-Istrina show and had left everything in the hands of a board led by car enthusiast Tonio Darmanin. At times visibly frustrated, she said she didn’t change any procedures on the show’s organisation.
However, George Abela today offered a completely different version of events, confirming he had assumed personal responsibility over the motorshow back when he was President of the Republic until 2014.
“Ultimately I felt that I was responsible for this event, and had demanded to know exactly what went on in every board meeting,” he said.
Also today, Island Insurance Brokers general manager Carmel Cascun testified that the insurance policy for Paqpaqli was always invoiced to and paid by the Office of the President. The insurance broker’s first meeting with the Office the President for the Paqpaqli event was carried out with then President George Abela himself.
Scenes from the 2015 Paqpaqli crash
Abela’s testimony is expected to boost the case of six spectators who were injured in the 2015 crash and who have sued Coleiro Preca for damages, arguing the barriers which were set up between the racetrack and the crowd did not offer them adequate protection.
Separate criminal and civil cases have also been instituted against Darmanin and the other board members, as well as against Paul Bailey – the British driver who was behind the wheel of the Porsche Sypder supercar.
Two weeks ago, Coliero Preca cut an angry figure as she testified in the case instigated against her by the crash victims, at times sparring with their lawyers.
“I chose to take the stand like everyone else, refused privileged treatment but don’t give me kids games and put words in my mouth,” she told lawyer Reuben Farrugia. “I know this is a court but let’s ask what you want – do you want me to take responsibility for [the accident]? I am grieved to death for the victims, I came here with no privileges to see that justice is done.”
When questioned on financial invoices showing the crash barriers were issued under Coleiro Preca’s name, the President told lawyer Alessia Zammit McKeon: “It seems you like speaking by yourself, ħi, so carry on speaking by yourself”.