A driving test examiner has recounted under oath how his boss would occasionally tell him to “take care” of particular candidates flagged by “some ministry or Castille.”
The witness was one of three Transport Malta test examiners who testified in court on Tuesday that former TM director Clint Mansueto would pressure them to ensure certain candidates passed their tests.
Mansueto and TM officials Raul Antonio Pace and Philip Edrick Zammit face charges of having led a racket to ensure specific candidates obtained their driving licences.
The case revolved around allegations that government ministries and private individuals sought help for particular candidates sitting for both theory and practical tests.
All three are pleading not guilty.
A court has heard how Mansueto told police under interrogation that he had felt pressured to favour certain candidates because they enjoyed the favour of a particular minister. Prosecutors have not identified the minister in court.
On Tuesday, examiner Demetrius Psaila told the court that ever since he started on the job about one year eight months ago, Mansueto, his superior, would tell him that sometimes “he had to close an eye or both.”
“At first as a newcomer, I was rather scared. But I was always used to obey superiors’ orders,” said the witness.
“There were times when I did close an eye,” explained Psaila.
“This one is of the ministry. Get on with it so that he’ll pass [Mexxi ha jgħaddi],” Mansueto would tell the examiner.
“It was normal,” Psaila told the court. “We were taught that way.”
However, when he gained more confidence on the job, he said he changed his attitude and “whoever deserved to pass did, and whoever didn’t, did not".
Asked about the other two co-accused, the witness said that Pace would hand out lists of candidates’ names for the practical exams, pointing out “this is the one that Clint spoke to you about.”
When Mansueto was absent, Zammit would pass on the message.
Another examiner, Kevin Debono, recalled how Mansueto would sometimes flag particular candidates, saying “take care of this one” or “this particular one, see how he goes. Help him.”
“I did not feel comfortable. If a candidate showed that he had studied and showed interest, I would willingly drop a hint, but never the correct answer. But the candidate would have to show an interest. It was always that way with me.”
Some candidates would come along “expecting the examiner to do the test for them. No chance of help there,” said Debono, explaining that his job was to help illiterate candidates or those who had trouble understanding certain driving terms.
When a candidate showed that he was well-prepared, Debono said he would try to help by telling him to think twice.
But when Mansueto or Pace told him “take care of this one. Don’t give him a hard time [tkabrux]”, he would feel uncomfortable.
“I never give anyone a hard time…I felt under pressure…As far as possible I always apply the same measure to all.”
Debono, who has been at Transport Malta for five and a half years, said that he no longer assists at theory tests.
The third examiner testifying today was Mark Tabone, who said that he has been doing this job for the past 15 years. He stopped doing theory tests some three years ago.
Tabone recalled how Mansueto would, perhaps “once or twice a month”, tell him to go easy on certain candidates “because they’re from some ministry or Castille.”
Asked several times about communication with either of the three co-accused, the witness said that it was all work-related.
“Remember that you are under oath,” remarked AG lawyer Abigail Caruana Vella, as the witness insisted that Pace would simply hand out test papers at the office.
Particular candidates flagged by Mansueto would be marked on the names lists, Tabone said.
Once the driving exam was over, he would log the result on Transport Malta’s computerised system, indicating “pass, fail or absent.” If Mansueto had flagged a particular candidate to him, he would then report back to Mansueto about the test outcome.
Some candidates would arrive for the test saying, “I’ve come for assistance at theory.”[Ġejt għall-għajnuna tat-teorija.”]
Some of those candidates, who supposedly needed help because they were illiterate or had a low IQ, would select the right answer on the monitor before the examiner had even read out the questions in the multiple choice test.
Others clearly needed help.
“So if for instance, out of 1-5, they said ‘number 2’ I would tell them ‘are you sure? Think about it.”
But he only did that in respect of those named by Mansueto, he daid.
At the start of the siting, a representative from a service provider confirmed that one phone number was registered in the name of Maria Assunta Camilleri.
Camilleri, who faces charges of trading in influence, has admitted to texting and paying Mansueto money while trying to get her nephew his driving licence. She claims she only did so to "speed up the process".
Another number was related to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade at Valletta since July 18, this year.
Asked for further information about this number, the witness said that they had nothing else prior to that date.
The case continues in December. Magistrate Rachel Montebello presided.
Inspector Wayne Borg prosecuted, assisted by AG lawyers Caruana Vella and Gary Cauchi.
Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jacob Magri are counsel to Mansueto.
Lawyers Joe Giglio and Roberta Bonello Felice are counsel to Pace.
Lawyer Herman Mula is counsel to Zammit.