Anthony Debono, husband of former Gozo minister Giovanna Debono, has again been cleared of all charges linking him with a 'works-for-votes' scandal by a court of appeal.
In a judgement delivered on Friday, the court said the whistleblower who made the allegations was not credible.
The judgement was delivered on Friday in Gozo after the prosecution sought to overturn a judgment delivered by then-magistrate Neville Camilleri in March, ruling that the information given by contractor-turned-whistleblower Joseph Cauchi, was not sufficient to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt.
In his first reaction, Opposition leader Bernard Grech called on Prime Minister Robert Abela to apologise to the Debonos on behalf of the Labour party.
Camilleri's judgement has now been confirmed by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera who declared that the court could not find a person guilty simply on the basis of suspicions.
In this case, the evidence pointed at “unfounded or unproved suspicions” and mere allegations, said the Court, adding that it deemed Cauchi’s testimony as “neither credible nor plausible".
Status of informant must not be abused to recover funds
The evidence put forward by the prosecution was “weak", she added.
Not only was the whistleblower’s testimony not “credible and trustworthy” but it was not corroborated by other testimonies put forward by the prosecution.
The status of informant ought to be reviewed, Madam Justice Scerri Herrera said, adding that criminal action should be taken against any such whistleblower not acting in good faith who rather than revealing an alleged corruption, seeks some monetary gain, “as seems to have happened in this case".
"The status of informant is very important as an instrument to ensure good governance. It places great responsibility both on those who grant such status as well as the person who receives it, and therefore it must not be abused to recover funds," court said.
Cauchi's motivation, as explained in his testimony, was to get paid for the works he had carried out. In fact, he had gone to various people, including politicians, to recover his dues, it added.
13 charges of misappropriation
Debono had been charged in May 2015 with 13 charges of misappropriation of public funds in excess of €5,000, fraud, falsification of documents, abuse of power and committing a crime he was duty-bound to prevent, to the detriment of the government of Malta.
He had also been accused of making a false declaration and having tried to prevent other people from giving information or evidence to the competent authorities.
The allegations surfaced two months prior when the contractor claimed that Debono engaged them to carry out works in private properties which were then meant to be paid for by the Ministry of Gozo.
He made the claim after he was never paid for this alleged work. Debono was a former civil servant in the Gozo Ministry.
His wife had resigned from the Nationalist Party parliamentary group soon after the arraignment, pledging to defend her integrity and her family’s and to prove her husband’s innocence. She retained her seat in parliament as an independent politician and did not contest the 2017 general election, thereby retiring from politics.
Lawyer Joe Giglio was defence counsel.
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