A top government official interviewed over the Gaffarena scandal has filed a sworn statement saying he did not expose Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon’s involvement because he “felt threatened” by a man from Dr Falzon’s secretariat.

The official, former director of estate management Charles Camilleri, claimed in an affidavit to the National Audit Office [NAO] that he came under severe pressure from Clint Scerri – Dr Falzon’s liaison with the Land Department – and was afraid to spill the beans on Mr Scerri and his boss.

“Before the interview [with the NAO], Clint Scerri used to come to my office and tell me to avoid mentioning the Parliamentary Secretary and himself so that they would not appear in a bad light,” Mr Camilleri said.

“He used to tell me not to tell the NAO that he used to pressure me and that he used to come to my office with Gaffarena.

“This is why I didn’t say everything, as I felt threatened and thought that if I said what Clint used to do I would have ended up in trouble with my bosses,” Mr Camilleri revealed.

I was pressured and felt threatened- Carmel Camilleri

The police are investigating the claims, which were made in an eight-page sworn affidavit to the NAO and presented to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee last night.

Mr Camilleri said that the process behind the sale of Marco Gaffarena’s Old Mint Steet property in Valletta to the government was all pushed by Mr Scerri.

Last January, following months of investigation after the Times of Malta revealed the property deal, the NAO concluded there had been collusion between government officials, Dr Falzon and Mr Gaffarena.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had then announced DrFalzon’s resignation.

In his affidavit, in which he denied that he had colluded with Mr Gaffarena, Mr Camilleri described the process through which the government had expeditiously approved the expropriation of half a palazzo in Old Mint Street, Valletta, and given Mr Gaffarena a multimillion-euro compensation in cash and land.

Mr Camilleri claimed Mr Scerri used to pass on to him instructions from the Parliamentary Secretary and push him to take rapid decisions and approve documents in the presence of Mr Gaffarena.

He said Mr Scerri used to go to his office on a regular basis with Mr Gaffarena and tell him what needed to be done.

Mr Scerri, he told the NAO, used to speak in Dr Falzon’s name and tell him what parcels of land Mr Gaffarena was to be given in exchange for his property to be expropriated by the government.

Revealing that it was Mr Scerri who introduced him to Mr Gaffarena in July 2014, Mr Camilleri said Mr Scerri told him it was Dr Falzon who sent Mr Gaffarena to him to see what he needed.

According to Mr Camilleri, after he was asked for the first expropriation – a fourth of the Old Mint Street property – he told Mr Scerri that such a deal required the approval of a member of the Cabinet.

Mr Scerri replied: “Michael will decide.” The former estate management director, who resigned his position the day after the NAO published its damning report, said that, apart from pressuring him to take quick decisions, Mr Scerri was at the same time pressuring all the other department officials involved in this case including the architects and notaries working on the Gaffarena file.

Making it clear that in his 35-year career he had never passed any internal government information to others, Mr Camilleri said Mr Gaffarena used to know all the intricacies of his file including the internal valuations of the properties he was seeking and other sensitive information.

He said that, in one instance, a parcel of land known as Ta’ Ħarram, which Mr Gaffarena was seeking, was eventually left out of the list of properties he exchanged.

He claimed Mr Scerri used to pass instructions to him from Dr Falzon and push him to take rapid decisions and approve documents in the presence of Mr Gaffarena

When Mr Camilleri questioned this, Mr Scerri told him to “leave it for now” as its inclusion would push up the value of the exchange allowed according to law.

However, Mr Camilleri revealed that this same parcel of land was then acquired by Mr Gaffarena in the second deal he made when the government expropriated another quarter of the same property in Old Mint Street.

Mr Camilleri said that apart from continuous pressure put on him by Mr Scerri throughout the process, he used to find Mr Gaffarena waiting for him outside his office to ask him about his file.

Mr Gaffarena had a “free pass” in the land department, he said, as he used to be let in by Mr Scerri without even registering at the reception.

“The situation was so bad that I had even made an official complaint over this,” Mr Camilleri said.

The NAO sent the affidavit to the PAC because it sheds new light on the Gaffarena inves-tigation, although the Auditor General said that it did not materially change its conclusions on the affair.

The Economic Crimes Unit yesterday approached the NAO asking for a meeting – the first time the police had been in touch on the matter since the publication of their investigation, the Auditor General said yesterday.

Excerpts from Mr Camilleri’s sworn declaration

“Mr Clint Scerri was introduced to us by the Director General, a few days after Dr Michael Falzon became Parliamentary Secretary, as the person acting as a link between the Parliamentary Secretary and the [land] department.”

“On July 31, 2014, Clint Scerri came to my office accompanied by Marco Gaffarena. Mr Scerri told me that Dr Falzon had sent Mr Gaffarena to see what he needed.”

“In a meeting, Mr Scerri told me that Mr Gaffarena wanted to exchange a fourth of a property he had in a palazzo in Old Mint Street for some property he was already renting from the government. Mr Scerri, in Mr Gaffarena’s presence in my office insisted that I write a minute in the file making such a recommendation. Clint stayed there until I wrote the minute and took the file with him.”

“I told Clint [Scerri] that such an exchange required funds as we had to make sure that the department had the necessary funds for these exchanges. Clint immediately told me to leave everything in his hands and that he will see that there are the necessary funds… I remember he told me… Michael will decide.”

“After a while, Mr Scerri came to my office and told me that Dr Falzon had approved the expropriation and said that now the valuation should take place. Again, with a lot of pressure Mr Scerri remained in my office until I signed the instructions to do what he told me.”

“Clint used to ask me on a daily basis if the valuations of the land [from the architects] arrived. As Mr Scerri was from Dr Falzon’s office, I used to keep him informed. However, I never gave any information to Marco Gaffarena.”

“On November 24, 2014, Clint Scerri again came to my office holding government files and accompanied by Mr Gaffarena. He [Clint] told me which parcels of land should be given to Mr Gaffarena. He told me that Marco knew already the valuations of the land.”

“A few days before February 27, 2015, Clint Scerri came again to my office with Mr Gaffarena. Marco had told Clint that now ‘we need to do the second part’.

When I asked what this second part was about, Clint told me that Mr Gaffarena had bought another forth of the same property and wanted to exchange it with more land and cash.

“Clint told me that he will take the file with him. With this pressure, I forgot to write the date of my recommendation.”

“On March 3, 2015, Clint came again and told me that the second expropriation was approved.”

“I worked hard in my job and have no regrets. The only regret I have is that I let Mr Scerri pressure me.

“I felt pressed and pressured to do what he was telling me. It was like there was someone running after me. I was being pressured to do something which normally takes a much longer process tobe done.”

“Before the NAO interview on the whole case, Clint Scerri used to come to my office and insist that I should not mention the Parliamentary Secretary or himself so that they don’t appear in a bad light.”

“He used to tell me not to tell the NAO that he used to pressure me and that he used to come to my office with Gaffarena.”

“This is why I didn’t say everything as I felt threatened and thought that if I said what Clint used to do I would have ended up in trouble with my bosses,” Mr Camilleri revealed.

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