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Paqpaqli volunteers left in the dark as compensation to victims is paid out of public funds

In exchange for dropping their civil suits, victims were paid over €3.5 million, sources said. 

The scene after the crash in October 2015.

The scene after the crash in October 2015.

Volunteers involved in the organisation of the tragic Paqpaqli għall-Istrina event, who ended up facing both civil and criminal lawsuits over the 2015 accident, are livid at the way they are being treated by the Office of the President.

The Sunday Times of Malta revealed a few weeks ago that a multi-million euro out-of-court settlement had been reached between the Office of the President and 11 of the victims.

Paqpaqli was a charity fund-raising event for the Malta Community Chest Fund, which falls under the auspices of the Office of the President.

Although the civil cases were officially dropped last Friday, volunteers of the MCCF, who are still facing separate criminal charges, said they were being kept in the dark by the President and her officials.

“Ironically, we are following what is happening about us from the newspapers,” an angry volunteer said.

Another said: “After whatever was settled with the victims, and rightly so, the President failed to inform us what has been settled and what has not.”

This newspaper is informed that when some of the volunteers, through their lawyers, asked whether their legal expenses were going to be covered as a result of this ‘secret’ agreement, they were informed that the accord was confidential and no details would be given.

“How can an agreement involving the President of Malta and public funds ever be confidential? Public funds are taxpayers’ money and no one, not even the President, can use that money without giving any explanations,” a lawyer for one of the volunteers said.

Although details of the out-of-court settlement remain sparse and the Office of the President is refusing to answer questions.

In exchange for dropping their civil suits, victims were paid over €3.5 million, sources said. 

The payments, which have already been settled, were issued through the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation. However, it is not yet clear where the money came from.

According to the President’s office, the funds were paid through insurance cover and the government. The President has said that the Community Chest Fund did not issue a cent. However, no details have been given on how much was paid through taxpayers’ funds and how much from the insurance company involved.

The Sunday Times of Malta can confirm that an agreement for Mapfre Middle Sea insurance to pay €1.8 million out of the whole compensation settlement has not yet been agreed to by the volunteers, against whom these civil cases have now also been dropped. Despite this agreement not being in place, the payments to the victims were still made.

The Paqpaqli debacle goes back to October 2015 when 23 people were injured, some of them seriously, when a super car driven at high speed veered off a Hal-Far track and crashed into spectators at the charity event.

The victims were forced to start civil court cases against the President and the organisers after both Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and the MCCFF refused to give out any compensation claiming that they had no responsibility whatsoever for what happened.

However, a sudden change of heart took place earlier this year when during the court hearings things started going wrong for the President’s office.

Two of the MCCFF governors admitted that preparatory meetings on the court evidence had been held at San Anton Palace, coordinated by the President’s chief of staff, John Camilleri.

Soon afterwards, discussions were initiated by the Office of the President for an out-of-court settlement to be reached and the civil law suits to be dropped.

The President is not involved in any criminal cases, following a magisterial inquiry in which Magistrate (now Judge) Consuelo Scerri Herrera exonerated her of any criminal responsibility.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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