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Man denies stealing and burning van

A man charged with stealing and burning a van in March 2009 told the court this morning that the people responsible for the crime had wanted €4,000 to admit to their charges.

Taking the witness stand, the accused, Keith Pace, said he was originally arraigned together with Alfred Bugeja, known as il-Porporina, and Raymond Borg, known as il-Borza.

He insisted he did not have anything to do with the case and said that he had been arrested in relation to the case when he went to sign the bail book in Hamrun.

The perpetrators of the crime, he said, were the other two accused who had since been jailed over their involvement.

Asked by the magistrate when was the first time he was jailed, he said he had been 19. Mr Pace is now 31 and has received two terms of four years and 19 months in separate cases.

"Fredu Bugeja, il-Porporina approached me in prison and said call your lawyer, I'm going to tell the truth," Mr Pace said.

He told the court that Mr Bugeja had gone to his house to borrow €100. Mr Bugeja wanted to pay the money back with children’s clothes that were in his garage, which, it resulted later, were stolen.

Mr Pace said he took the inspector to the garage, the key of which he had copied to make sure he was given his money back.

Replying to questions by the prosecution, Mr Pace said he knew Mr Bugeja because he used to live with him.

He said that his shoe print was in the stolen van because he had had to get to it to take the clothes.

He insisted that he did not deserve to be jailed because he did not do anything wrong. He also said jail was anything but the place of reform it was supposed to be.

Mr Bugeja is expected to testify when the case continues.

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