An accounts executive at the Foundation for Tomorrow's Schools confirmed in court on Monday that Edward Caruana, an aide to Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, had once asked him to hand over cheques for payment to contractors handled by him, claiming that this would enable him ‘to better coordinate his work.’

The cheques were handed to Mr Caruana after the accounts executive, Brian Giorgio, obtained clearance from his superiors.

The Sunday Times of Malta had reported way back in December 2016 that Mr Caruana hand-delivered nearly €9 million worth of cheques to tens of contractors and suppliers involved in works at government schools over the previous three years. 

Mr Caruana, a long-term canvasser of Mr Bartolo, had been put in charge of infrastructural projects within the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools (FTS). He now stands accused of corruption, fraud, falsification of documents and bribery.

Mr Giorgio, testifying in the compilation of evidence against Mr Caruana, said that Mr Caruana's request was unusual and he had referred the matter to his superiors who had subsequently given him the go-ahead to hand over the cheques to him.

According to the procedure normally followed by the Foundation, the suppliers themselves would collect their payment cheques against a fiscal receipt and after signing a register, intended specifically to record receipt of payment.

In the case of cheques collected by Mr Caruana, no one signed for those cheques, the witness explained, adding “I cannot remember if I asked him to sign the register” once his superiors had known of the particular “modus operandi.”

Most of these cheques concerned works in Gozo, although others referred to works in Malta.

Replying to a question by defence lawyer Stefano Filletti, Mr Giorgio declared that the relative fiscal receipts issued by the contractors were also handed over to the Foundation by Mr Caruana. 

Earlier in Monday's court sitting, Joseph Caruana, a former permanent secretary at the Education Ministry, today confirmed under oath that he had personally asked the police to investigate fraud allegations against his own brother following media reports in April 2016.

After choosing not to avail himself of the faculty not to testify in his brother’s case, Joseph Caruana explained how he had sent an email to former Police Commissioner Michael Cassar the day after a report concerning his brother, Edward, had made the headlines in The Sunday Times of Malta.

In his email, Mr Caruana had asked the Police Commissioner to investigate the allegations carried in the report. He sent a reminder to the same effect when other related reports were published but In-Nazzjon and Times of Malta.

A few days later, on April 28, 2016, he had attended a meeting summoned by the investigating officer following his own earlier request.

“From then on the matter was in the hands of the police,” Mr Caruana concluded, before stepping off the witness stand.

The case continues.

Inspector Rennie Stivala is prosecuting.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and John Gauci are defence counsel

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