Malta’s police force was rocked by the arrest of half its traffic officers three months ago but, as they remain hanging in limbo, some of the officers implicated have warned that a deeper scandal remains untouched.
“Several police officers have enrolled at the University of Malta for a full-time law course and attend lectures during work hours,” a traffic officer told Lovin Malta. “Many of them are escorted to university in a police car and their driver has to wait outside for hours at a stretch until they finish their lectures.”
“They even study and do their assignments during work hours, in full view of other officers.”
Some of these police officers even leave the police force to become full-time lawyers once they graduate.
“We’re talking about assistant commissioners, inspectors, superintendents and others, including some who have applied to become police commissioner. I can name some of them but it isn’t exactly difficult to find out who they are.”
“They’re investigating us for potentially over-declaring hours worked at extra duties when they themselves are skiving from work to attend a law course in full view of everyone. Who will investigate these police officers?”
This reality was confirmed to Lovin Malta by three other traffic officers, all of who expressed a sense of grave injustice at the whole situation.
They and their colleagues were arrested by officers from the Economic Crimes Unit last February for allegedly getting paid for extra duties they never carried out and thrown into the police lock-up in their uniforms.
The investigation later expanded into allegations that officers had disabled the GPS on their vehicles, siphoned fuel out of their police vehicles into their personal ones, and even forgave traffic fines in return for sexual favours, allegations they vehemently deny.
According to Times of Malta, the Economic Crimes Unit intends to charge an unspecified number of traffic police officers with money laundering.
While the officers admit it is possible they were paid in excess for extra duties, they insist that suggestions this formed part of a organised racket are way off the mark.
“I would be on duty next to a building site from 6am till 11pm, including in the blazing heat, and I would sometimes go home for an hour or an hour and a half to have a shower, eat and charge my police radio,” one of them said. “That is all.”
This officer said he would sometimes leave his personal phone at home because he didn’t need it to communicate with his colleagues on the job, and that this was used as evidence against him during his interrogation.
“They localised my phone, found that it was at my home and told me that this meant I was at home during work hours. However, I was clearly at work during those hours and it can be easily verified.”
Three months down the line, the officers remain suspended, some with half pay and some with no pay, and no indication as to whether or when they will be charged.
Meanwhile, higher ranking police officers are attending law school during work hours and taking their studies back to work with them, and yet none have been arrested and some have even applied to become police commissioner.
The traffic officers said they are ready to speak about this practice by their superiors under oath if they are ever charged and suspect this is the real reason why they haven’t been charged yet.
They also suspect the whole investigation was nothing but a stitch-up by the Economic Crimes Unit to give the impression that it is taking money laundering accusations seriously after failing to take action on alleged political corruption related to the Panama Papers scandal.
Lovin Malta has asked the police to confirm how many officers are currently attending full-time university courses.