San Ġwann mayor to face bribery charges
Mayor’s son gets suspended sentence
San Ġwann’s Nationalist Party mayor Joseph Agius is expected to be charged with soliciting bribes after his son, who was allegedly his accomplice, yesterday pleaded guilty to similar charges.
Mr Agius was not charged in court with his son as he is recovering at Mater Dei Hospital after suffering a heart attack.
His son, Noel Agius, 32, also from San Ġwann, was jailed for two years suspended for four after pleading guilty to soliciting bribes from at least three of the four contractors who submitted a tender to win the waste collection contract in the village, whose council is headed by his father.
Police Inspector Angelo Gafà told the court no money had changed hands but the request for commission was in itself a crime.
Inspector Gafà said although Mr Agius had refused to reply to any of the investigators’ questions – as is his Constitutional right – he later assisted police with their inquiries and is expected to continue assisting, even by testifying against other people allegedly involved in the affair.
Sources said police investigations into the bribery allegations at San Ġwann council have been going on for the past fortnight. The police started working on the case when they received an audio recording of people asking for commission for a council tender.
Mr Agius, who is unemployed, immediately admitted to charges of being an accomplice to corruption and to trading in influence. He confirmed his admission after he was given time by the court to reconsider his plea.
The court proceedings prompted Joseph Agius to resign as mayor and PN representative on the council.
The resignation was accepted immediately by the party which in a statement said it was party general secretary Paul Borg Olivier who had referred to the corruption claims to the police for investigation.
Problems within the PN-led San Ġwann council have been brewing for some time until, at the beginning of this month, the mayor and his deputy, Etienne Bonello Dupuis, requested the local government director to investigate claims made by fellow councillors, some of them within their own party, over how the council was operating.
They requested an inquiry “so as to put residents’ minds at rest that the claims are unfounded”.
The letter to the department was sent the day after a council meeting was suspended abruptly soon after councillors made claims about the council and the executive secretary.
The San Ġwann council is yet another PN-led council facing internal problems after those encountered by the Sliema council.
Two mayors and a deputy mayor of three other PN-led councils – St Venera, Żebbuġ and Għarb in Gozo – have resigned from the PN after claims of wrongdoing.
Former St Venera Mayor Elizabeth Vella resigned after an Auditor General report found irregularities in the handling of council funds. The Għarb deputy mayor, whose name cannot be published due to a court ban, resigned from the PN after being arrested and charged with defiling a minor.
Żebbug (Gozo) mayor Charles Saliba resigned from the party to defend himself from charges of misappropriating a council laptop after he allowed his daughter to use it to access Facebook.