Former police inspector David Gatt had turned the Rabat police station into a “club for criminals”, a court heard yesterday.
This was the latest serious allegation against him following others made during the first sitting in the compilation of evidence against Dr Gatt last Thursday, when his alleged obsession with the Mafia was revealed.
Dr Gatt’s request for bail was rejected yesterday.
Police Inspector Joseph Mercieca recalled an incident when the accused, now a lawyer, was still an inspector stationed in Rabat and a colleague told him how he had turned the station into a “club for criminals”. Ever since then he had made sure to steer clear of him, the officer added.
Dr Gatt, 40, of Birkirkara, is pleading not guilty to 14 charges including complicity in a string of major hold-ups, harbouring criminals and involvement in organised crime.
Accused has a licence for two revolvers and three pistols
The witness said that following the successful hold-up of the HSBC Balzan branch, when over €1 million were stolen, he went to the bank with Assistant Police Commissioner Pierre Calleja to investigate. He noticed the accused walk in and this made him feel uncomfortable. The witness said he had forgotten about this incident but last Friday’s testimony by prosecution witness, PC Mario Portelli jogged his memory.
PC Portelli had testified that his former friend, Dr Gatt, told him he had gone to cash a “cheque of 10” at the same branch where the hold-up was carried out.
Defence lawyer Edward Gatt questioned Mr Mercieca on whether he had asked the bank what transactions Dr Gatt carried out but the witness said he had not.
Asked if he knew that the cheque his client had gone to cash was actually his pension from the police force, Mr Mercieca again replied in the negative.
Mr Mercieca said that, following Dr Gatt’s arrest on December 3, a search was carried out at his home and office. As they left one office they noticed another and asked to look inside, where they found a large poster of the film The Godfather hanging on the wall and an Israeli flag. When he asked if that was his office too, the accused did not reply, the witness said.
WPC Ismele Fenech gave a detailed description of Dr Gatt’s gun licences and applications to buy new ones. He had a licence for two revolvers and a pistol and had made two applications, the first to shoot at a firing range and for target shooting and the second to purchase two pistols. All the applications were approved earlier this year.
PC Jonathan Agius testified he had heard from sources that Dr Gatt had made threats in his regard for carrying out a search on the car of a friend of fugitive Fabio Psaila. However, the witness said he had received no direct threats.
The prosecution produced the witness to back up a claim made by PC Portelli that Dr Gatt wanted to carry out a revenge attack on the police constable for searching the car.
Going into detail, PC Agius said that following a previous incident he had decided to keep tabs on a car driven by George Degiorgio, also known as Iċ-Ċiniz. One day, while on the beat in Marsa near an area known as Tal-Patata, he by chance spotted Mr Degiorgio. He noticed that Mr Degiorgio was not pleased to see him and, as he was about to ask him to search his car, Mr Degiorgio’s brother, Alfred, turned up driving a Mercedes and wanted to know what was going on.
The officer told the men he wanted to search the car but they both objected. So he called his superior who went to the scene and the men said they would only accept a search if it was carried out by members of the Criminal Investigation Department. The car was later searched and nothing was found.
At the end of the sitting, Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona rejected a request for bail and ruled there was sufficient evidence for Dr Gatt to be indicted.
A sequence of events according to allegations made against David Gatt in court testimony by PC Mario Portelli, John Zammit Montebello and others and based on news reports about the crimes in question.
December 8, 2004 – PC Mario Portelli undergoes mafia-style initiation rite at the hands of former police inspector, now lawyer, David Gatt.
November 30, 2007 – Five hooded and armed men make away with over €1 million from the HSBC Balzan branch in a well-planned hold-up. A sixth person drives the getaway car.
Early 2009 – For the first time, Dr Gatt introduces PC Portelli to Fabio Psaila and all three have dinner at a Marsascala restaurant. Dr Gatt introduces Mr Psaila as his “general”.
April 2009 – At a café in Sliema, Dr Gatt, in the presence of Mr Psaila, tells PC Portelli it is time to “pull down the shutter” on President Eddie Fenech Adami, who is nearing the end of his term. PC Portelli anonymously phones Dr Fenech Adami from a public phone box in Żurrieq, warning him people plan to kill him.
January 4, 2010 – A gang carries out a hold-up on a security van in Sta Venera but fail to break into its hold carrying an estimated €2.8 million in cash. They escape.
June 30, 2010 – An attempt by three hooded men to rob the HSBC headquarters in Qormi fails after the police are tipped off about a suspicious looking car. It ends with a shoot-out between the police and the criminals. The criminals escape but one of them is hit in the jaw by a bullet.
July 1, 2010 – Dr Gatt phones John Zammit Montebello, a medical doctor, asking him whether he can send friends of his over for assistance. He asks the doctor to keep everything secret. Three men – whom Dr Zammit Montebello later recognises as Darren Debono (It-Topo), Vince Muscat and Mr Psaila – go to the clinic. Mr Debono is injured in the jaw by a bullet and the doctor sends him for an x-ray to a private hospital.
July 2, 2010 – Two of the men – Mr Debono and Mr Muscat – return to the doctor’s clinic and the police arrest everyone including the doctor.
July 2010 – Dr Gatt finds Dr Zammit Montebello at the Old Smuggler’s bar in Balzan and asks him not to reveal his name in the court proceedings. PC Portelli reports that Dr Gatt is very depressed some weeks after the attempted HSBC hold-up. Dr Gatt says he is the unluckiest man in the world as he has just lost €6 million in the hold-up.
July 26, 2010 – Police arraign Mr Debono and Mr Muscat, accusing them of carrying out the HSBC headquarters hold-up. Dr Gatt is defence counsel to Mr Muscat.
September 7, 2010 – An appeals court confirms Dr Gatt and two other police officers were unjustly sacked from the police force in 2001 and orders their reinstatement. The three ask for Police Commissioner John Rizzo’s resignation and an apology from former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, the two men they blame for their dismissal.
November 10, 2010 – Mr Muscat and Mr Debono are granted bail by the Magistrates’ Court.
November, 2010 – PC Portelli speaks to a priest he trusts about the difficult situation he is in. The private discussion is not a confession and so the priest is not bound by secrecy. The priest encourages PC Portelli to report all he knows to the authorities.
Late November 2010 – PC Portelli is asked by Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Cachia to make a written statement detailing what he knew about Dr Gatt and the various criminal acts he is allegedly involved in.
December 3, 2010 – Three hooded men attempt to hold up a jeweller in Attard but it fails after the victim’s son wrestles a shotgun out of one of the assailant’s hands and shoots him in the foot. Mr Debono is injured and is arrested.
December 4, 2010 – Dr Gatt contacts PC Portelli and asks for his help to locate a doctor because Mr Psaila, who allegedly was involved in the Attard hold-up, was also injured in the arm. PC Portelli informs the Deputy Police Commissioner of Dr Gatt’s approach.
December 5, 2010 – Dr Gatt tells PC Portelli that Mr Psaila has been arrested. It is not the case.
December 6, 2010 – Dr Gatt admits his mistake to PC Portelli and tells him Mr Psaila is in a lot of pain and needs rest. Dr Gatt again asks for a doctor or a nurse.
December 7, 2010 – Dr Gatt is arraigned under arrest and charged with complicity in four major hold-ups and of trying to hinder Dr Zammit Montebello from carrying out his duty and of helping Mr Psaila escape the police.