They were arrested four months ago, accused of fraud and detained and humiliated at the Floriana lock-up for hours – but now two Maltese traffic officers have revealed their side of a story that has rocked Malta’s police forces.
And it is a story of alleged deception, widespread abuse and a blatantly partisan attitudes within the police force.
You can watch the whole interview below – but here’s a rundown of eight of the most outrageous things we learnt from the officers themselves.
1. Officers were thrown into lockup with their police uniforms on.
There was a sense of urgency about the arrests last February, so much so that the officers (around 40 in total) weren’t even given the chance to change out of their uniforms before they were thrown into the depot lockup.
“The lockup was packed with police officers for hours,” one of the officers recounted. “At least we knew each other so we could exchange words, but it was a scary experience, particularly as we didn’t know why this was happening. If we knew why, we could say ‘mea culpa’… but we had no idea.”
2. They were asked whether they forgave traffic fines for sexual favours.
During their interrogation, the officers faced several questions from the Economic Crimes Unit, the most egregious of which was a suggestion that they had excused traffic fines in return for sexual favours.
“When I returned home after my arrest, the first thing my wife asked me wasn’t how I was doing, but how many women I must have slept with in return for forgiving tickets,” an officer said. “That hurt me because it isn’t true.”
3. Officers turned the tables on their interrogators while under questioning.
One of the officers recounted how his interrogator had asked him whether he had ever revoked traffic fines. His point-blank response?
“Of course I did… you asked me to do so yourself!”
The other officer said there is likely to be proof of this in their mobile phones, which were confiscated from them when they were arrested.
4. Politicians and high-ranking officers often requested fines to be revoked.
Forgiving traffic fines as favours had become so normal that the officers’ superiors would even use the depot’s own phone system, where conversations are recorded, to make these requests.
Such requests would come from their superiors, but sometimes even on behalf of politicians from both PL and PN, including serving ministers.
“I have to work with my superior every day, so if he asks me to scrap his friend’s ticket, should I tell him no?” one of them said.
“When the person I had fined would have acted rudely and shown disrespect to the uniform, I’d ask my superior to bring him over to apologise. I’d know he wouldn’t face me after making a scene, and so I’d win the argument though experience – not telling my superior no but at the same time emerging as the winner.”
5. The traffic fine system is outdated and completely manual.
Revoking tickets for no reason is extremely easy because the police still use a completely manual system to record fines, meaning fines can easily be wiped out by simply scribbling them off.
Traffic police used to have a PDA system to record fines but this was reverted several years ago, and the officers suspect this was done precisely to make it easier to revoke fines.
6. They said high-ranking officers are chauffeured to university when they’re supposed to be at work
Traffic officers have been accused of fraud by over-declaring their hours worked at extra duties, but the two officers warned a greater skiving scandal is at play, involving high-ranking police officers who attend university courses during work hours.
“I often saw an unmarked police car waiting outside university with a driver inside. Obviously, I’d check if he needed anything but he’d tell me he had brought the inspector or assistant commissioner to a lecture.”
“I used to think he was the lecturer, not the student. Of course, he was able to skive work to go to university, get his degree and even post his graduation photos on Facebook.”
The officers warned these police officers aren’t studying to improve the skillset of the police force, but to lay the groundwork for a future career once they leave the force.
7. They believe this was all a stunt orchestrated by the head of the Economic Crimes Unit.
The suspended officers suspect their arrests were ordered by Economic Crimes Unit head Ian Abdilla as a means of bulking up his unit’s prosecutions, the low number of which has been flagged by Moneyval as a serious shortcoming in Malta’s anti-money laundering regime.
“The Finance Minister himself said he isn’t pleased with the ECU’s work, and of course he isn’t. I don’t know why more people weren’t charged, but is it possible no one else has laundered money in Malta?”
“Coincidentally, Abdilla arrested us on the same day he was supposed to testify in court for the case against [Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect] Yorgen Fenech… of course, he couldn’t testify because he was dealing with our case.”
8. They said the current police commissioner had told his underlings ‘to stick with the Labour Party’.
Current acting police commissioner Carmelo Magri used to be Deputy Commissioner in charge of the traffic section, and the officers recounted how he had allegedly passed some very partisan comments during a Christmas party held last year at the police garage.
According to the officers, Magri told his underlings to “remain firm and stick with the Labour Party which I love so much”, a reference to the political scandal that had rocked Malta back then and which led to Joseph Muscat’s resignation as Prime Minister.