He went from police pariah to winning back the post he was kicked out of – only to be accused of planning major hold-ups. Kurt Sansone traces former police inspector David Gatt’s tumultuous career.
Only three months ago former police inspector-turned-lawyer David Gatt was celebrating victory after a nine-year legal battle to prove that his dismissal from the police force was unfair.
After the appeals court delivered judgment, Dr Gatt went on record asking for the resignation of Police Commissioner John Rizzo and an apology from former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, the two people he blamed for his dismissal in 2001.
The court ordered his re-instatement to the police force, but the sweet scent of victory only lasted until last Tuesday when Dr Gatt was arrested as he went about his business in court. He was interrogated and arraigned under arrest in the evening.
Dr Gatt was charged with involvement in major crimes, including the theft of more than €1 million from a Balzan bank in 2007, the failed heist on HSBC’s operations centre in Qormi that ended in a shootout with the police in June, the failed attempt to break into a security van carrying some €2.8 million in cash earlier this year, and last week’s attempted robbery of a jeweller in Attard.
Apart from the allegation that he helped plan these criminal activities, Dr Gatt was also accused of helping Fabio Psaila, 35, flee from police. Mr Psaila, who has a string of convictions and who is represented in a child custody battle with his former partner by Dr Gatt, is one of the suspects still wanted in connection with the Attard jewellery hold-up.
In 2002 Mr Psaila was arrested in Italy after police caught him collecting cocaine and marijuana outside Catania.
However, the lawyer also stands accused of helping Darren Debono (it-Topo) seek medical attention after he was shot by police in the HSBC operations centre shootout and of trying to prevent Dr John Zammit Montebello from alerting police after he had examined the injured Mr Debono.
The accusations of links with criminality are not new. In 2001, then Police Commissioner George Grech had taken steps to remove Dr Gatt after tapped phone conversations revealed he was talking to known criminals – though the former inspector strenuously denied any wrongdoing and the recordings were not admissible in court because they were improperly obtained.
It is not clear why no criminal action was taken against Dr Gatt at the time but the spectre of having a police officer in collusion with criminals seems to have returned to haunt the police force.
Only, this time, the allegations will be tried and tested in front of the criminal court, the very same place Dr Gatt has chosen to ply his trade in recent years.
In court, police prosecuting officers said Dr Gatt had often gone around comparing himself to the “capo dei capi” (boss of bosses) Toto Riina (a Sicilian Mafia boss).
Dr Gatt, who on his Facebook profile lists as his likes and interests the French Masonic lodge Grand Orient de France and the 1980s cartoon Lupin – in which the main character was a criminal who always managed to evade police – has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The prosecution is being led by police inspectors Joseph Mercieca and Michael Mallia.
Profile: David Gatt
David Gatt, 40, from Birkirkara, is a lawyer and former police inspector. Dr Gatt entered the police force in 1989 and was appointed inspector in 1993. His stint in the police force only lasted 12 years, after which he studied law at University and obtained a warrant to practise as a lawyer.
In 2001, he was kicked out of the force after former Police Commissioner George Grech asked then Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami to initiate proceedings with the Public Service Commission.
Dr Gatt was accused of familiarity with well-known criminals after his name cropped up during an investigation of a major hold-up on a Group 4 security van in Birżebbuġa.
In May 2001, the Prime Minister accepted the PSC’s recommendations and Mr Grech informed Dr Gatt and two other police officers they were dismissed from the force.
No criminal action was ever taken against Dr Gatt who subsequently sued the Police Commissioner and Prime Minister for unfair dismissal. Transcripts of telephone conversations presented in court and purporting to reveal the familiarity between Dr Gatt and criminals allegedly involved in the Group 4 heist were dismissed because the police did not present warrants to justify the tapping operation.
The court ruled in Dr Gatt’s favour and ordered his reinstatement in the police force. The decision was confirmed on appeal in September.
Dr Gatt later went to the media calling for Police Commissioner John Rizzo’s resignation and demanding an apology from Dr Fenech Adami, who said he stood by his decision nine years ago.
The Sunday Times
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