The defence in the case of the alleged "works for votes" scandal in Gozo is challenging the right of the Attorney General to decide on whether the case can go ahead arguing he had a conflict of interest.

At the end of a court hearing in Gozo today, during which the testimony of whistleblower Joseph Cauchi was heard, Joe Giglio, who is representing the accused, said it would not be contesting the prima facie evidence.

Dr Giglio said that due to the fact that he could not tackle the charges individually at this stage of the proceedings, he was not in a position to contest the prima facie evidence on a number of crimes which, in the defence’s opinion, did not even make the grade of prima facie.

He also noted that there was a serious conflict in the position of the AG as after granting whistleblower protection, he would be the one to decide whether the case should proceed.

The Constitutional Court, he said, had already found a similar disposition in the law not in conformity with the right of a fair hearing.

He reserved the right to take all necessary steps on this conflict.

Inspector Ian Abdilla, for the prosecution, said Dr Giglio's declaration was as an “offence” to the system and intended as a media attention grabber as no such conflict existed.

The prosecution requested some time to contest the claims made by the defence.

The court invited the AG to reply to the claims made by the defence within 48 hours.


When giving evidence throughout the day, the whistleblower said he was still owed €34,995 for works done. A few moments later, he said the balance was €14,995.

Explaining this, he said on February 8, 2014, Anthony Debono went to his house and gave him €10,000 in cash.

“Don’t reveal I gave you this money, as I owe money to other people,” Mr Debono allegedly told him.

On December 29, 2014, Mr Debono again visited his house and gave him another €10,000 in cash. He told him that he was paying him from his own money.

Mr Cauchi was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Mr Debono, husband of former Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono.

He testified that he had had pending bills over works carried out in private properties and spoke about the matter with Dr Busuttil at his office in Pieta, and also met general secretary Chris Said and sent him some documents. He said he also sent the emails to PN whip David Agius.

This afternoon, he said that the Opposition leader's position was shameful. This was because Dr Busuttil had told that he should not have continue to carry out works as it was clear that the PN would not be reelected.

During cross examination, he reiterated this claim.

Mr Cauchi said he had told Dr Busuttil about false invoices and Dr Busuttil told him that Lawrence Gonzi, and not himself, was prime minister at the time.

He said he even told Dr Busuttil that that works had been carried out on private properties, but did not say they were motivated by votes.

Asked if he told Mr Agius that he had to be refunded for works carried out when Anton Tabone was minister, he said he did not.


The Opposition leader said in a statement said he met Mr Cauchi in June 2013. During the meeting, Mr Cauchi complained that he was still owed money from the Gozo Ministry for works carried out under the Nationalist administration.

Dr Busuttil said the whistleblower was concerned that with the change in government, he would not be paid.

"I replied that there was no reason why financial commitments should not be kept simply because of a change in government, Dr Busuttil said.

Dr Busuttil said that no mention whatsoever of any ‘works for votes’ allegations was made during the meeting.

"Had this been the case, I would have obviously replied that, if this was so, then no public money could be due for works performed in private property because this would amount to misuse of public funds."

The Opposition leader said the truth was that if there was anyone who knew about these allegations and kept them hidden it was Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Gozo Minister Anton Refalo.

The Labour Party, he noted, disclosed these allegations to the media on the eve of the local elections campaign and Dr Refalo knew since, at least, last summer.

Neither Dr Muscat nor Dr Refalo had explained why they kept this information to themselves and used it when it suited them rather than report it to the Police immediately.


Addressing a news conference this afternoon, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Labour MP Deborah Schembri said Dr Busuttil was coming out with information bit by bit according to what is made public.

This, they said, cast a shadow over his sense of judgment, honesty and credibility.

During the court sitting this morning, Mr Cauchi presented some 70 invoices saying they were all false and part of this scam.

Dr Bonnici said these invoices represented the "70 lies of Dr Busuttil".


Mr Cauchi said he knew the accused through his post at the helm of the Construction and Maintenance Unit, within the Gozo Ministry. The first tender he won was issued in July 2004.

During his testimony, Mr Cauchi said presented emails sent last year, after he had complained with the accused that he had not been paid.

“Keep in mind these works were not covered by a contract,” he said.

He said that although no more tenders were issued after 2006, he kept offering his services between 2006 and 2012.

Works included concrete in valleys, walls in private properties, ramps in private fields and excavation works at the Kercem school.

Asked how he got paid after 2006, Mr Cauchi said Mr Debono used to go to his home once a year usually in February or December and pay him with government cheques.

“I could not sent an invoice to the ministry as I had no contract to show for the works,” Mr Cauchi said.

He said Mr Debono used to ask him to draw up an invoice himself, consisting of the number of hours and the respective rate so as to make up the pending bills. “These hours of work were invented,” he remarked.

He presented handwritten documents on paper carrying the GM watermark, which he said were issued by the accused during his annual visit.

The works were included as part of ongoing projects elsewhere.

Mr Cauchi said once he got paid for works carried out by a vehicle which had been garaged in 2007 and was no longer licenced. The accused also presented 70 invoices saying these were all false and part of this scam.

The prosecution went over all 22 sites involved in this case, with Mr Cauchi saying that the invoice issued had no connection with the said works as the details regarding the kind of equipment used were false.

Asked what he did with the invoices to get paid, Mr Cauchi said he used to hand them to the accused to be processed, he would then receive a remittance advice and a cheque some time later.

Mr Cauchi said he was called for questioning at the police headquarters on April 1.

However, he struggled to remember what happened at the headquarters to the point that Magistrate Neville Camilleri interjected saying this only happened a few weeks ago.

Inspector Rennie Stivala took over the prosecution and Mr Cauchi went through what had happened at the Gharb football ground - one of the sites mentioned in the case - in January 2006.

He said he had been called by the accused who dished out instructions as head of the CMU. Works involved the use of an excavator and a bobcat.

Gharb mayor David Apap, who had requested the help of the CMU, was also present. Subsequently the accused asked him to carry out some works at the five-a-side ground also in Gharb.

Mr Cauchi said he could not issue an invoice, as this project was not covered by a tender.

The contractor remarked that Mr Apap was initially Ms Debono's canvasser but then had an argument with Mr Debono and he started canvassing for the PN's outgoing general secretary Chris Said.

As a result, he said, it was harder for him to get paid for the job.

The contractor testified that concrete used to be provided by P&J Debono on the instructions of Mr Debono. Mr Cauchi also pointed out that for a period of time he was President of Gharb Rangers which made use of these facilities.

The prosecution presented an agreement between the Gozo Football Association and the Gharb Rangers FC in January 2006, bearing Mr Cauchi’s signature as club president.

While acknowledging that the signature was his, Mr Cauchi said that he had never signed a deal to upgrade the facility.

Platform for Gharb village feast

The whistleblower said Mr Debono has supplied the stone and the concrete, and the works had been requested by the Gharb Mayor.

He said Mr Debono was not happy with the work but he did not know why. However, he said, he still expected the accused to issue the payment. The works were invoiced to Mr Debono, he said, but he never got paid.

He added that in 2013, he decided to send the bill to the Gharb council as he stood better chance of getting paid due to the bad relationship between the accused and the Gharb mayor. However, the latter refused to pay.

He said he also had not been paid in full for a road on virgin land leading to the Fontana Fireworks Factory.

On the levelling of a road in Gharb, Mr Cauchi said he sent the invoice to a German woman who had requested the job adjacent to her house and not the accused.

He said he had done this as he thought he would stand a better chance of getting paid, due to the increasing number of pending bills with the CMU.

Eventually she paid the bill, even though the concrete had been supplied by P&J Debono.

Regarding works on a wall in Gharb, Mr Cauchi said he invoiced the owner, as no Gozitan would accept to pay.

During cross examination Mr Cauchi said the possibility of being granted protection as a whistleblower was raised for the first time on November 17, 2014 in the presence of the permanent secretary.

He then went to the Whistleblower Unit at Castille, where he was asked to be accompanied by a lawyer. He said he contacted Robert Abela who was working with him on his Xewkija property.

Asked if had had been questioned again in the interim period, Mr Cauchi said he was not. He also said he did not hand over any document when he has visited the Office of the Prime Minister.

Mr Cauchi said he was informed that he was granted whistleblower protection by Dr Abela and received a copy of the whistleblower certificate on March 31.

Video: Keith Micallef


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