The police commissioner has accused the Opposition leader of trying to "put words into my mouth" when he showed up for a surprise meeting on October 24 in connection with the controversial hospitals deal.
Bernard Grech had told reporters that during the meeting, Angelo Gafà "confirmed" he was not investigating the case and does not intend to open an investigation until the ongoing magisterial inquiry is concluded.
“I never said that,” Gafà said.
The police boss was summoned as a witness by Joseph Muscat in a case in which the former Prime Minister is claiming his rights would be breached if the inquiry continues to be conducted by Magistrate Gabriella Vella.
During a court sitting on Tuesday, questions shifted to a visit he had received from the Opposition leader and Nationalist MPs Adrian Delia and Karol Aquilina on October 24.
Making reference to a Times of Malta report on the visit, Muscat’s lawyers pressed on.
Gafà explained how that day he received a call from Grech while he was out of office on other police work.
“That meeting was not scheduled.”
So he re-scheduled the meeting and headed back to police headquarters where he met the PN leader and the two MPs together with Deputy Commissioner Sandro Gatt.
“I told him (Grech) that I was not a political person.”
Grech kept insisting that the police were not investigating but “I insisted that the police were investigating under the magisterial inquiry.”
The police commissioner said that after the first damning hospitals' judgment, on May 8, police received a criminal report signed by Grech and Delia giving him a list of some 36 suspects linked to Vitals.
The police boss said he had sought a meeting with the magistrate investigating the privatisation deal, later directing superintendent James Grech to bring that "list of 36 suspects" to the notice of the inquiring magistrate.
Gafà told the court the police worked “in synergy with, and under the direction of” the magistrate handling the Vitals inquiry.
Asked whether he had received written instructions from the magistrate, Gafà said he was a “police commissioner not an investigating officer. I definitely never received written directions.”
Questioned about the police's role in such inquiries, and specifically the hospitals case, Gafà said evidence was gathered during searches and search and arrest warrants were issued by the magistrate.
Experts were roped in by the magistrate when the police lacked the necessary expertise.
Meetings with the magistrate also took place, even prior to searches so as to discuss which devices were to be seized, for instance.
But when pressed further by Muscat’s lawyers to explain what that magisterial “direction” consisted of, Gafà replied, “I’m not sure what details I can give”.
Divulging details about how police assistance was requested could not be done without “going into how the inquiry was opened”.
He explained that the magistrate gave directions verbally, but there were arrest warrants and decrees too.
Police worked under the direction of the inquiring magistrate and followed her directions on the way forward, bringing to her notice any allegations on the case.
There was no particular “practice” but that was how it always worked.
Muscat wants the magistrate off the case following comments made by her brother and father on social media linked to the case.
Asked about the “four” suspects originally mentioned by NGO Repubblika in their original application for an inquiry filed in 2019, Gafà replied, “I would be lying if I said that I remember those four.”
Repubblika president Robert Aquilina had mentioned those “four” when testifying at a previous hearing and his testimony was shown to Gafa’ to help refresh his memory.
He read out the names of Konrad Mizzi, Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Ivan Vassallo.
He said three of those featured in the longer list presented more recently by the Opposition, without specifying who.
The case continues.
State Advocate lawyers James D’Agostino and Isaac Zammit represented the respondents. Lawyers Charlon Gouder and Vincent Galea are assisting Muscat.