Police Commissioner Peter Paul Zammit shrugged off journalists’ questions this afternoon following a speech he delivered during a Europol awareness seminar for Maltese law enforcement agencies held at the Police Depot in Floriana.
Top officials from the Malta Police Force, Malta Customs, Armed Forces of Malta and Europol were among those present.
Although journalists were warned beforehand that the Commissioner will not take any questions, journalists still tried to question him on claims made by the Opposition that he allegedly used an Article of the law specifically designed to be used in serious crimes to resolve a petty issue and allegedly having turned down Inspector Elton Taliana's request to tell his version to the media.
When a journalist asked the Commissioner to answer to allegations being made in his confrontation, the Commissioner said he is ready to answer to any allegations only if proof of his allegations were presented.
The controversial case being referred to is of Darryl Luke Borg, who was wrongly accused of a hold-up and who was kept under arrest for two days despite not having committed the crime.
On Tuesday, during a news conference, both shadow minister for Home Affairs Jason Azzopardi and PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami claimed that the Police Commissioner’s actions to resolve a petty issue and request service providers to hand him phone logs “was simply an abuse of power and acts performed in a police state”.
They said the Police Commissioner had requested the logs of calls allegedly made between the Home Affairs chief of staff Silvio Scerri, Mr Borg, his mother and Charles Attard known as iz-Zambi (a convicted criminal who was allegedly used as an intermediary), and Inspector Elton Taliana.
The Opposition said that someone evidently has an interest in protecting the home affairs minister’s chief of staff since the Commissioner publicly said that Mr Borg was the one to call first.
Mr Scerri has insisted that he never knew convicted criminal Charles Attard and did not use him as a go-between to arrange a meeting with Mr Borg.
Taking the issue a step further, the Opposition MPs claimed that the private lives of citizens was being jeopardised as a result because this could easily lead to phone tapping from the side of the police in the future since telephony service providers were being asked to provide phone logs to resolve a far less serious issue by using an article of the law used for serious crimes that carry a sentence of not less than one year.
According to Dr Azzopardi the law stipulates that the police could only demand such information when they suspected a crime which carried a penalty of not less than a year imprisonment.
The Opposition urged the Commissioner to publish the phone logs and the reason behind having requested the logs in the first place pointing out that the alleged meeting between Mr Borg, his mother and Mr Scerri should have never taken place in the first place.
This portal was about to ask the Commissioner whether he would be publishing the logs and the reason behind his request to service providers however the unofficial question session was cut short after the commissioner reacted to The Times’ journalist, telling him to be polite, and pushing away his microphone following which the commissioner walked away.
To view yesterday’s related news story click on http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2013-08-27/news/citizens-right-to-privacy-being-jeopardised-opposition-2435088385/
Police clarify position
Referring to media reports following yesterday’s news conference addressed by Opposition members Jason Azzopardi and Beppe Fenech Adami, the Police said in a statement this afternoon that for clarity’s sake, one had to distinguish between the aim of the Police Board’s inquiry and that of the Police.
“A situation has arisen whereby apart from the Police Board investigation tied to the operation of police officials involved in the arrest and prosecution of Darryl Luke Borg, the police were obliged to investigate subsequent allegations including the alleged attempt made by a police official by approaching a witness and the breach of other laws.
“This was confirmed in an affidavit made by Jane Borg, the mother of Darryl Luke.
“In the light of the affidavit, the police said that it was obliged to investigate these claims since the alleged crime falls under Article 102, 110 and 111 of the Criminal Code including approaching witnesses to tamper with evidence, the creation of false proof and those who deny others the right to provide the necessary information.
“A number of the above-mentioned crimes carry a prison sentence of more than one year, especially when one considers Article 141 of the same Code, which addresses crimes committed by public officials.
"This therefore justifies the police’s action to request such information, referring to the request made to telephone service providers for what is referred to as a ‘call profile’, according to Article 355AD(4) of the Criminal Code and more effectively which fall under Legal Notice 198/08 on data keeping related to police investigations and other relative procedures.
“This law has been used by the Police Force for years and conforms by the directive of the European Union,” the police said.
Meanwhile, the police explained that a call or SMS profile is a list of phone calls conducted or messages sent or exchanged backdated up to one year.
“Content of calls and messages cannot be requested since service providers do not keep such data.
“Apart from that, call profiles are only referred to for investigative purposes and are not public domain except when data is produced in front of a court of law as evidence,” the police said.