A former superintendent who quit his 27-year career in the police force after being accused of bribery has had his acquittal of those charges confirmed on appeal.   

An appeals court ruled that admissions which Patrick Spiteri made to police investigators were inadmissible as evidence.   

Spiteri, now 65, was accused back in 2006 of having accepted protection money from men who organised clandestine lottos, in exchange for tip-offs about planned police raids. 

The bribery allegations covered a span of years between 2000 and 2006. 

Spiteri pleaded not guilty to accepting bribes, extortion, abusing his authority, disclosing official secrets, aiding others involved in clandestine betting as well as committing crimes he was duty-bound to prevent. He was also charged with theft of an unlicensed firearm. 

During proceedings before the magistrates’ court it emerged that Spiteri had admitted his involvement while being interrogated, named some of those involved and said he received around Lm100 (€240) monthly from them. 

However, Spiteri’s lawyer Joe Giglio subsequently challenged those statements before the constitutional courts, claiming that they breached his client’s fundamental rights since he had given them without any legal assistance.  

Spiteri had in fact released two statements in 2006, at a time when the law gave a suspect the right to consult a lawyer for up to one hour before releasing any statement under interrogation. 

He argued that he had released his statements without having consulted a lawyer. 

That argument was upheld by the constitutional courts which ruled that Spiteri’s rights had been breached.  

The statements were subsequently discarded in the criminal proceedings, which resulted in an acquittal in December 2020. 

The Attorney General appealed, arguing that the magistrates’ court had completely discarded the accused’s statements as well as all testimonies given by a number of high-ranking police officers, based on what Spiteri had said under interrogation. 

After a lengthy and in-depth analysis of local and European case law on the subject, the Court of Criminal Appeal, presided over by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, observed that Spiteri had been cautioned and as a superintendent at the time, he understood that well. 

However the answers he had given without consulting a lawyer were irrevocably self-incriminating and thus would prejudice his position.  

In light of previous judgments, the court confirmed that those statements were inadmissible in evidence. 

Spiteri had claimed that he was placed at a disadvantage by being unable to continue cross-examine the prosecution’s star witness, a former Maltacom recorder named Gejtu Zerafa who allegedly fixed the bribes.  

Zerafa first testified in July 2006 and was cross examined four years later, in September 2010.  

But when Spiteri’s criminal case resumed after his constitutional case ended, Zerafa chose not to answer any further questions, since in the meantime the police had pressed charges against him. 

“With all due respect the prosecution dragged its feet when instituting proceedings against the witness, when it could have done so years before as it did in respect of other witnesses,” remarked Judge Scerri Herrera.  

This meant that Spiteri could not control this main witness in the same way as other witnesses, and consequently Zerafa’s testimony could not be wholly admitted in evidence. 

The appeals court also observed that one of the men allegedly involved in the bribes said that he had once spoken to Spiteri about a fine but had always handed money to Zerafa.  

Another one of the illegal lotto receivers said that he had once shown Spiteri a court document and was told that it was “a sensitive case.” But the superintendent never fixed anything and it was Zerafa who had asked for token money. 

On the basis of that evidence, the court concluded that the bribery charges against the accused were not sufficiently proved. 

As for the unlicensed firearm, the court observed that weapons expert Brigadier Maurice Calleja had confirmed that it was an old shotgun manufactured in Belgium and was non-functional because it was defective.  

The prosecution failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove this charge, concluded the court thus rejecting the AG’s appeal and clearing Spiteri of all criminal liability.  

Lawyer Joe Giglio was defence counsel.  

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