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Updated: Judge Ray Pace arraigned, accused of bribery and remanded in custody

Indications case hinges on video footage, phone intercepts

Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas, Mark Zammit Cordina

Mr Justice Ray Pace was arraigned in court today and accused of bribery, conspiring to commit a crime and trading in influence.

He appeared before Magistrate Audrey Demicoli, a day after he was arrested and questioned at police headquarters. 

He pleaded not guilty and requested bail. The police objected.

Sources said the case centres on attempts to bribe the judge to use his influence to increase the prison term of a man convicted in a drugs case. The issue is said to involve rival gangs.

During the arguments on bail, defence counsel Stefano Filletti said bail was the rule, not the exception. The principle was that bail was coupled with the presumption of innocence. His client had no criminal record and up to yesterday he was respected as a man who meted out justice, so what had made him lose his credibility, the counsel argued.

A video recording of the case could have been taken completely out of context, the defence said.

Dr Pace should be granted bail because he would not prejudice his own case by speaking to witnesses. Even the other judges, Noel Arrigo and Patrick Vella were granted bail during their court proceedings.

Superintendent Norbert Ciappara said the prosecution based its arguments on the law, since these were serious charges.

As he was taken out of the court under police escort, Justice Pace was seen in tears as he was hugged by his wife and children.

He is expected to be held in the Forensics Section of Mt Carmel Hospital.

TWO ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTING TO BRIBE JUDGE

An hour before his arraignment, two men were accused of complicity to bribe the judge.

They are Raymond Caruana, a 51-year-old truck driver from Zebbug, and Sandro Psaila, a 40-year-old restaurateur of Valletta.

Both pleaded not guilty and were remanded in custody.

During their arraignment, Police Superintendent Norbert Ciappara revealed that most of the prosecution evidence was based on phone intercepts.

The case is alleged to have happened last month and this month.

In refusing bail, the court recommended that the prison authorities keep the two co-accused away from Darren Desira.

Mr Desira was recently jailed for 18 years after admitting to conspiracy to traffic drugs.

The judge in that case had not been Mr Justice Pace but Lawrence Quintano, who, it is understood, is not under investigation.

PRIME MINISTER'S STATEMENT

In a statement, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said the news that a judge had been arrested and was being investigated had shocked him in the same way as it had shocked the nation.

This was a worrying development because it meant that the institutions of the country were going through a difficult and testing time.

He said he wanted to assure everyone that the institutions would do their duty, and no one would be held above the law.

He said the proceedings should be allowed to follow their course unhindered.

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