Last Thursday’s first hearing in the compilation of evidence against former inspector and lawyer David Gatt turned out to be an explosive start. Mark Micallef takes a look at court highlights so far.
Plan to assassinate Eddie Fenech Adami: Police Constable Mario Portelli stunned a packed courtroom on Thursday when he claimed that David Gatt indicated he wanted to kill Eddie Fenech Adami over the former President and Prime Minister’s role in having him dismissed from the police force in 2001.
In April 2009, as Dr Fenech Adami completed his five-year term as President, David Gatt allegedly told PC Portelli and Fabio Psaila (who is wanted by police in connection with a recent failed hold-up in Attard) that he wanted to “pull the shutter down” on the former President. The three were at the Cafe Roma in Sliema, when a news item related to Dr Fenech Adami was aired on TV.
Testifying in the compilation of evidence proceedings, PC Portelli said he was shaken by the comments, and the incident was pivotal in convincing him to pass on information to the police about Dr Gatt, who is his second cousin.
The constable also made an anonymous call to Dr Fenech Adami to warn him that his life was in danger. However, Dr Fenech Adami told The Times he did not recall the warning, adding that he probably dismissed the conversation as another “silly” call from a detractor.
The ‘Mafia’ connection: David Gatt emerged in the testimony given on Thursday as an obsessive character, fixated with the Sicilian Mafia, and particularly the legend of Toto Riina, who among other things was responsible for the assassination of anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
On December 8, 2004, PC Portelli claimed the former Rabat inspector had performed on him an initiation rite which mirrored, down to minute detail, the secret induction rite of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra which had been revealed by the Mafioso-turned-informer Giovanni Brusca after his capture in 1996.
PC Portelli claimed the former inspector made a small incision with a knife in his hand, daubed a holy picture with his blood and burnt it.
As the picture burned, Dr Gatt spoke in Italian and ominously warned PC 99 that he would “pay with blood” if he betrayed him.
According to Portelli, Dr Gatt also called the members of his gang by the names of Riina’s closest clan members, assigning the constable the name of Filippo Marchese, a Sicilian hitman.
Fabio Psaila: In the days before the arrest, PC Mario Portelli told the court he had been asked by David Gatt to seek medical help for Fabio Psaila, who was badly injured during a botched hold-up on a jeweller in Attard earlier this month.
He claimed that Dr Gatt, who had defended Mr Psaila (still wanted for his believed part in the hold-up) in a previous court case, had a dedicated mobile phone to communicate with the fugitive.
Dr Gatt and PC Portelli agreed to meet the following day, after the constable had sourced a nurse to attend to Mr Psaila’s wounds.
As soon as he finished with Dr Gatt, PC Portelli contacted his superiors to let them know the lawyer was harbouring the criminal. He was told to bide time so that Mr Psaila could be apprehended but Dr Gatt was arrested the following morning.
Aiding wounded hold-up suspect: On Thursday, further testimony carried damning claims against Dr Gatt.
Dr John Zammit Montebello described how Dr Gatt had asked him to see one of his clients “confidentially”. The client, according to Dr Montebello, turned out to be Darren Debono, known as It-Topo, who ended up with a bullet lodged in his jaw during crossfire with the police during the botched robbery on the HSBC operations centre in Qormi on June 30.
Police raided the clinic while Mr Debono was being treated at the clinic used by Dr Zammit Montebello in Birkirkara.
After the arrest, the lawyer allegedly approached the doctor at the Old Smugglers Pub in Balzan, took him to the kitchen and asked him not to mention his involvement.
Dr Gatt later appeared for Mr Debono in the subsequent criminal proceedings.
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