Police inspector denies involvement in arson attack on newspaper editor's home

Inspector Elton Taliana strongly rebuts claims he has ties to underworld figures

A police inspector implicated in an arson attack on the home of Malta Today managing editor Saviour Balzan today repeatedly denied a lawyer's suggestions that he had ties to underworld figures. 

Inspector Elton Taliana took the witness stand in the libel case against Malta Today journalist Raphael Vassallo over an article entitled 'Police Inspector In Wrongful Prosecution Was Investigated Over 2007 Arson.' 

The article had implied that Inspector Taliana had links with the underworld and had been investigated over his involvement in the arson attack on Mr Balzan's home in 2007.

Mr Vassallo's article was published following an investigation into the wrongful arrest of Darryl Luke Borg and the subsequent arrest of another suspect by Inspector Taliana.

READ: Wrongly accused man takes case to Strasbourg

Inspector Taliana strongly rebutted questions by the defendant's lawyer regarding his connections with Duncan Petroni, arrested in Brazil on drug trafficking charges and Paschalino Cefai, who has a colourful criminal record sheet.

"I had nothing to do with Duncan Petroni or Pasqualino Cefai,” the inspector told Magistrate Francesco Depasquale this morning.

Under cross-examination, Inspector Taliana explained that some 'anonymous' informer had hinted at his involvement in the arson attack by filing a report with the then Commissioner of Police John Rizzo, just two months after Inspector Taliana's marital annulment.

Magistrate Depasquale pointed out that Mr Rizzo had reported that confidential information had reached his office alleging that Inspector Taliana was “unsuitable” for his role, worked as a bouncer, “indulged in importation of firearms” and “had set fire to a door.”

While strongly denying these allegations, Mr Taliana explained that in 2006 he was a sergeant stationed at the Ministry of the Interior and National Security with then-Minister Tonio Borg. "This is why I object and why it is malicious, I wasn't an inspector at the time. I came to know of the arson through the newspapers," Mr Taliana insisted.

Asked whether he knew Darren Luke Borg, the person who had been wrongly arrested by the police, Inspector Taliana replied that he had only spoken to Mr Borg once, when the latter was summoned as a witness in a separate drugs case.

Lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel was counsel to Mr Taliana. Lawyer Veronique Dalli was counsel to Malta Today.