• Officers claim traffic sergeant led racket
  • Fixer named 'Deo' would book under-the-table work  
  • Overtime cheats caught using mobile phone location data

A decorated police sergeant has been named by his colleagues as the alleged coordinator of a traffic unit overtime racket, sources close to the investigation say.

The sergeant, a veteran of the unit, was among seven people who resigned this week as part of a probe into officers claiming pay for jobs they never carried out.

His role as the alleged main coordinator of the widespread abuse emerged along with other fresh details about the investigation first revealed by Times of Malta on Tuesday.

The sergeant’s official duties involved handling bookings and logistics for motorcycle officers, but investigators have been told that he was the main coordinator of the widespread abuse.

Police said that 41 members of the approximately 50-strong traffic unit have been arrested this week over the allegations made by a whistle blower. As well as the seven resignations - which included Walter Spiteri, the superintendent who led the section - some 35 officers have been suspended.

No-one has yet been charged and some 31 people have been released on police bail.

The probe is being coordinated the Economic Crimes Unit, Criminal Investigations Department, and the Internal Affairs Unit. 

How investigators caught overtime cheats

Further detail has also emerged over how investigators were able to probe officers weren’t doing the extra work that they were claiming compensation for.

This included comparing information from tracking devices on the motorcycles with triangulation data, which is information on the exact location and time a mobile phone is used.

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“We found that in some cases the motorcycle was in Sliema, say, but the officer’s mobile phone was in Mellieħa – how do you explain that?” a source said. 

The investigation has also uncovered a practice of officers taking bookings, via an intermediary known as “Deo”.

This person has been identified and is being investigated, but Times of Malta has been told that he would take bookings for traffic officers to conduct extra off-the-books work that should have only been done if assigned to them by their commanding officer.

They would then split the cash payment with “Deo”. 

A source familiar with the practice said he had paid two traffic officers around €200 in cash for four hours work, after he was put in touch with “Deo” through a friend. 

A police source said senior officers were aware of the issue and that it was being dealt with internally. 

They also downplayed the issue, saying it boiled down to “a matter of supply and demand”.

“If you need an officer and one isn’t available no matter how many times you call the depot, then I suppose getting through to one directly is a good alternative for some. Unfortunately, while some officers saw this as a way to make some extra cash, it is not acceptable and action must now be taken,” a senior source said. 

Allegations of rampant overtime abuse were first made in December when now Energy Minster Michael Farrugia, was the home affairs minister at the time. 

He said police overtime was reviewed annually during his tenure and that no major irregularities were ever flagged.

Internal investigations into the abuse started as soon as the claims were flagged, he said.

Asked who he felt should take responsibility for the alleged racket, Dr Farrugia said whichever officers were involved should face repercussions. On his part, he said he had done his duty by forwarding the whistle blower’s complaint to the police for an investigation.

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