A laptop belonging to family doctor and former Labour MP Silvio Grixti contained a number of “suspicious” medical certificates, a police inspector testified on Tuesday.

Inspector Michael Tabone from the Economic Crimes Unit took the witness stand in proceedings against Tarxien resident Aaron Caruana, one of the persons recently charged with involvement in the massive social benefits fraud revealed by Times of Malta.

Caruana, 35, is alleged to have pocketed over €22,000 in disability benefits which he was not entitled to, and which he allegedly gained access to through the intervention of doctor and former MP Silvio Grixti. 

He was one of two people charged on Tuesday with having fraudulently tapped disability benefits, with the other being Josephine Spagnol, who is charged with having defrauded more than €25,000.  

The government has so far confirmed that police have identified over 160 such cases so far, with fraudsters having pocketed upwards of €2 million in benefits in total. Around 800 cases are being probed by investigators. 

Tabone explained that police began investigating the racket in October 2021, after an email flagged a suspicion that a number of individuals had been presenting forged medical certificates to claim unjustified social benefits.

Police investigations subsequently confirmed that the certificates were indeed false.

One of the suspected beneficiaries admitted that he had made use of those certificates but insisted that he had obtained them from Grixti.

Later, when searching through Grixti’s laptop, police came across several suspicious certificates, said Tabone.

Those certificates were allegedly used to claim benefits from the Social Security department and the scam involved “large figures to the detriment of the Maltese government.”

Grixti has not yet been charged with any crime. 

Testifying on Tuesday in the case against Caruana, Assistant Director at the Social Security Department Martin Buhagiar exhibited the certificate issued to Caruana by Grixti, stating that the patient suffered from epilepsy and other severe conditions.

Caruana had presented that certificate, a medical report written by Grixti and another certificate issued by a consultant neurologist at Mater Dei Hospital to a government-appointed medical board, which approved him for severe disability benefits.

From 2019 to date, Caruana had received €22,238.87 in total, none of which had yet been refunded to the State coffers, the court was told.

Caruana had offered to refund €50 a month, but that offer was deemed too little by the department.

The consultant whose certificate was presented to the medical board also testified, firmly declaring that the accused was not her patient and that she had never examined him.

As for the document itself, she explained that the wording, typology, structure of the sentences, and unusual use of abbreviations indicated that the certificate was false.

Testimony in the case against Spagnol went along similar lines. 

Consultant neurologist Ruth Galea, whose signature featured on the forged certificate, said that she had never seen Spagnol. 

She denied issuing the certificate, pointing out certain factors which indicated that the document had not been written by her. 

The signature was similar to hers and the Mater Dei letterhead seemed genuine.  However she insisted that Spagnol did not feature among her patients' list.

Both cases continue.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us