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Witnesses say victim suspected business partner of misappropriation

Martin Scicluna, the man who was shot dead last month, suspected that his associate and alleged murderer had "fiddled" with the company's money, the Magistrates' Court yesterday.

Police Inspector Daniel Zammit testified last week that Spiridione Mercieca, who stands charged with Mr Scicluna's murder, said in a statement that the victim was misappropriating company funds.

Norbert Pace, the mayor of Attard, testified that Mr Scicluna, who was the main shareholder at All Sports, had employed him to help sort out the administration of the company as it was "in a mess". Mr Scicluna told him that he wanted Mr Mercieca out of the company as he suspected him of foul play in the company's finances.

Mr Pace said that on the day of the murder Mr Scicluna had left the office for some time and on his return he had tears in his eyes because his son had not been accepted into De La Salle College.

When Mr Mercieca walked into the office the two men started arguing and the witness said he kept his head low so as not to get involved.

"I heard Martin tell Dione to get his things and get out. Dione then left and came back with a gun. When I heard the gun shots I froze. Looking from behind the desk I saw Martin's brain splattered on the floor".

He said that after calling the police he noticed Mr Scicluna's dog next to his body and it didn't want to leave.

Robert Borg, a private auditor, told the court that some time before the murder he had gone to the company to do the payroll and Mr Scicluna seemed "disappointed that Mr Mercieca had been careless with the company finances".

Mr Scicluna was the financial backer of the company but he had pressure exerted on him by the Tax Compliance Unit regarding a pending €233,000 tax bill owed by another company of which he was the sole director, Mr Borg said.

A company accountant, Clyde Kelly, said that while at the company offices, where he worked part-time, Mr Scicluna had told him that he wanted to do something to get Mr Mercieca out as he had allegedly caught him fiddling with the money.

Defence lawyer Joseph Giglio asked the court to grant bail to Mr Mercieca.

Mr Pullicino, for the prosecution, objected given the serious nature of the case.

Magistrate Miriam Haymen will decide on bail tomorrow after an on-site inquiry this afternoon.

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