Charges have been filed against 32 police officers who are alleged to have been involved in an overtime abuse racket within the police force’s traffic section.

In a statement issued on Monday, the police said that prosecutors had filed charges against the suspects who will be charged with fraud or complicity in fraud, filing false declarations or complicity in filing false declarations. Charges will be filed against more people in the coming days, it said. 

The court cases will be heard in the coming days after they would have been assigned to a magistrate according to law. 

Back in February, Times of Malta had exclusively revealed how a whistleblower in the traffic section had spoken up about the abuse which has been ongoing for several months. A lengthy investigation found that several members of the corps had been claiming overtime for jobs they never reported for or carried out.

Some 34 officers, including a Superintendent from the depleted unit, had been arrested and suspended from their duties on half-pay. They were granted police bail pending the police investigations. 

A source familiar with the internal police investigation said that initially, 42 officers within the 50-strong traffic unit had been arrested and interrogated.

Of these, eight officers were found to have had no part in the racket. It is believed that officers within the traffic section, mainly those from the motorcycle section, submitted overtime sheets for hundreds of hours that they did not work, over at least three years.

The probe had been widened to cover other sections and units within the police force where similar irregularities are suspected to have taken place. Investigators were also looking into claims that the officers were using police fuel to fill up their own private vehicles.

Sources said that since the officers were on police bail, the police inspectors leading the investigations could have technically re-arrested them and charged them in court under arrest, since fraud is considered to be an offence that merits arrest. However, sources said this option may have been overlooked and the court cases filed by means of summons where the officers are given a day and time to appear in court to answer to the charges. 

The sources said the fact that the officers have been on police bail for so long may have led the court to deem their arrest invalid so the investigators did not want to run that risk. 

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