‘Minister’s aide told police to arrest me’

‘Minister’s aide told police to arrest me’

Silvio Scerri, the Home Affairs Ministry’s chief of staff. Photo: Jason BorgSilvio Scerri, the Home Affairs Ministry’s chief of staff. Photo: Jason Borg

A top minister’s aide told police to arrest the security chief at the Isle of MTV concert last Wednesday after an unaccredited guest was barred from entering the restricted VIP area, it is being alleged.

When Silvio Scerri, Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia’s chief of staff, could not get his way he asked a police officer nearby to arrest Khiron Security head John Muscat.

“When I insisted that only those with the proper accreditation could go on the platform he [Silvio Scerri] told a nearby police officer: ‘Arrest him because he’s saying I’m talking nonsense’,” Mr Muscat told The Sunday Times of Malta.

According to Mr Muscat – who has worked as security with top artists like Madonna – a police sergeant on the beat told Mr Scerri that stating an opinion was not a threat.

Mr Muscat was contacted after witnesses told this newspaper that Mr Scerri had told the police to arrest the security head.

Somebody is fabricating a story- Silvio Scerri

With the concert in full swing, the tension escalated and at one point Mr Muscat was seen being taken aside by the police outside the venue.

Some 50,000 people attended the biggest concert of the year on the Granaries last Wednesday, featuring Jesse J and Rita Ora.

Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit said he was looking into the incident.

“I’ve ordered the case to be investigated irrespective of who Silvio Scerri or John Muscat are at this stage.

“There was a dispute and I want to know exactly what happened,” he said when contacted.

Witnesses who spoke to The Sunday Times of Malta claimed that at one point Mr Scerri was heard shouting: “Don’t you know who I am?” when Mr Muscat insisted untagged visitors could not enter the VIP area. He is also alleged to have said other things.

Allegation is ‘storm in a teacup’

Mr Scerri has denied the allegations and downplayed the incident, insisting it was merely a “storm in a teacup”.

“As if I have the right to order police to make an arrest. Somebody is fabricating a story... we just had an amicable discussion that lasted five minutes,” he said.

Sources said the VIP stand was designed to take two persons per square metre.

“If an accident were to happen, the first thing which would be questioned is how many people were standing on the structure,” the source said.

As far as the Police Commissioner was informed the safety issue never cropped up during the dispute.

“I don’t believe John Muscat is the manager of health and safety. He’s responsible for security issues – entry and exit; that’s where it stops... I have to see the contract he was assigned,” he added.

Mr Zammit stressed Mr Muscat was never arrested nor had Mr Scerri ordered the police to detain him.

“The police don’t take orders from civilians... John Muscat was never arrested but told to step aside and informed he was practically breaking the law by employing people as security officers without the necessary permits,” he replied.

The Sunday Times of Malta asked why Mr Muscat’s employment credentials suddenly became an issue for police when the dispute concerned the unaccredited entry of a woman.

Mr Zammit replied: “It became an issue when a security officer – who is also a soldier – provided back-up for John Muscat and found himself in a quandary who to answer to; whether to his permanent employer, Silvio Scerri as chief of staff at the Home Affairs Ministry, or his temporary employer. That’s when it became an issue.”

Soldiers, he explained, were barred by law from applying for such jobs, except in limited cases with the approval of the commander.

“Coming face to face with an offence a policeman has to carry out his duties... By Wednesday I want this cleared up, come what may.”

However, Mr Muscat is vehemently denying that the matter of unlicensed staff was ever raised by the police who took him aside.

“The first time I heard about police investigating the matter of security licences was today, when Times of Malta called me to ask for my reply... Khiron Security staff working as security officers are licensed according to law,” he said yesterday.

“If the police had any concern on whether our guards were licensed they had all the time during the event to check each and every member of our personnel on site.”

Mr Muscat said he was only taken aside by the police when he refused entry to the woman who wanted to enter the VIP area without proper accreditation.

He explained that when Mr Scerri told the police officer to arrest him, a police superintendent and assistant commissioner who attended to the incident confirmed, in the presence of senior MTV event staff, that there was no justification in arresting somebody who was simply doing their job.

Khiron Security employs some 150 security guards for the Isle of MTV, which they have scouted since 2008.

The company has provided guarding and security for more than 50 commercials, documentaries and films including Brad Pitt’s World War Z and Madonna’s Swept Away.

On the day of the concert, the General Workers’ Union daily l-Orizzont ran a front page story claiming that Khiron Security was employing workers on a six-month basis.

“Khiron Security is contracted by major event organisers the world over because of the company’s expertise, experience and adherence to the strictest regulations controlling the industry,” Mr Muscat said.

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