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Police commissioner: no issue with having deputy married to a minister

Lawrence Cutajar dismisses conflict of interest talk as 'untenable'

Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta with his wife, Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana.

Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta with his wife, Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana.

Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar sees no potential conflict of interest between the role of one of his deputies as head of the criminal investigation unit and the fact that he is married to a Cabinet minister.

High-ranking police officers have expressed reservations over whether deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta should retain the same duties he had before his wife, Justyne Caruana, was appointed Gozo Minister.

However, when asked whether Mr Valletta would be assigned new duties since his wife was now a member of the Cabinet, Mr Cutajar said he did not see any conflict. “The role of deputy commissioner is a strategic one, which means he does not involve himself in investigations,” a spokesman for Mr Cutajar said.

Police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.Police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

Mr Valletta, who has been a member of the police force for 24 years and has moved up the ranks through the years, is responsible for the criminal investigations department, the drug squad, the cyber crimes unit, the economic crimes unit, counter terrorism, immigration, security and the visa section.

FIAU ties

During the last Labour administration, Mr Valletta represented the Police Commissioner on the board of governors of the government’s anti-money-laundering agency, the FIAU.

Leaked reports indicate that the FIAU suspected the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, could have been involved in money-laundering activities and it asked the police to investigate further.

No such investigations are known to have started. When this was mentioned, the Police Commissioner still felt Mr Valletta had no conflict of interest.

“As a board member of the FIAU, Mr Valletta does not have an operational role and would not even be informed what investigations the FIAU is carrying out,” the spokesman said.

He noted that Mr Valletta’s “integrity was never questioned” throughout his career and added that the assertion that there was some sort of conflict of interest was “untenable”.

Mr Valletta was promoted to the rank of deputy police commissioner in March together with three other officers, who handle such areas as administration, operations and legal affairs.

Senior police officers pointed out that the deputy police commissioner is kept informed on all types of investigations conducted by the departments falling under his remit.

“He should not lose his job just because his wife was appointed a minister,” one officer remarked.

“However, he should be given other responsibilities that distance him from anything to do with sensitive investigations involving the government or any of its officials.”

As an example, he cited the case that surfaced last Friday when the Gozo Ministry announced the suspension of three of its officials in connection with allegations of fraud related to road work tenders. This newspaper is informed that police investigations are being conducted by the CID and economic crimes unit, both of which fall under Mr Valletta.

Information available to the Times of Malta also indicates that it was an official from the projects and development directorate who reported the alleged wrongdoings directly to Dr Caruana. The suspended officials are known to have had significant roles at the Gozo Ministry when Anton Refalo was at the helm.

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