The Malta Independent 12 July 2024, Friday
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Christian Borg acquitted thanks to prosecution’s weak case on illegal employment

Thursday, 10 November 2022, 10:02 Last update: about 3 years ago

Rental car entrepreneur Christian Borg has been cleared of illegally employing foreign workers at a car wash, after a court ruled that his ties to the company specified by the prosecution had not been proven.

Borg, 28 – together with five other men – is currently also the subject of separate criminal proceedings, in which they are accused of abducting, beating and threatening a man over a missing van.

In a decision in the employment-related case, handed down on Monday by Magistrate Nadine Lia, Borg was acquitted of illegally employing foreign workers as car-washers at Goldcar Car Wash in Luqa, as well as several other breaches of employment law.

The court said the prosecution had not established who owned Goldcar Car Wash, pointing out that this was merely the name of the car wash and not the operating company. “It appears, however, that the prosecution tied this business with Goldcar Operations Limited [owned by Borg] – but even here, the evidence of this connection is scarce, if not completely absent.”

“This court is convinced that there is a connection between the accused and the third party nationals in question, but certainly not in his capacity as a representative of Goldcar Operations Ltd.”

It was the company’s former director, Antoine Bugeja, who had assumed the responsibility for the employment of workers, the Hal Farrug car wash, as well as for Goldcar Operations Ltd during the period in question.

Magistrate Lia said the prosecution made a grave omission by failing to summon certain witnesses who, unlike the allegedly illegally employed workers, still lived in Malta. These witnesses could have easily confirmed whether they knew Antoine Bugeja and in what capacity, she said.

The court concluded that the evidence submitted left it uncertain as to whether Goldcar Car Wash was run by Goldcar Operations Ltd or Princess Garage, as had been indicated by JobsPlus representatives in their testimony.

The magistrate also criticised what was described as a superficial investigation by the police. “The Court cannot but observe that the investigation carried out was far from being appropriate. It appears that the prosecution relied solely on that said by the accused on the fly, during his statement – which at first glance appears to put the accused at fault. However, from an examination of what the accused had said, it emerged that certain declarations he had made did not turn out to be true – at least not black on white.”

In view of Borg’s lack of formal connection with Goldcar Operations Ltd, “one logically must ask why he released his statement in the manner that he did... It would be too light a deduction to presume that everything stated by a suspect under interrogation should always be taken as a precise fact.”

Rather, said the magistrate, the police’s job was to ensure that claims made in a statement were corroborated by other evidence and circumstances.

And the prosecution had every opportunity to verify the information which emerged during the hearing of the case, said the judge, adding that in spite of this, they had not requested permission to correct the charges upon which they continued to rely.

The police already had enough documentation or information to charge the accused as a representative of a business, instead in the name of a specific company, said the court.

“The prosecution’s choice to charge the accused in the name of a specific company, when this had never been indicated in the official JobsPlus documentation, led to confusion [about the] cobweb-like structure of Gold Car’s business.”

Moreover, discrepancies between what the accused had claimed and what really was the case would have easily been spotted had the prosecution checked with the Malta Business Registry.

The magistrate observed that the accused appeared to be involved in several businesses which in some way or other make reference to the name Goldcar but the acts of the case did not show who the name belonged to, as it or variations thereof appeared to have been borrowed by other businesses.

“Certainly, the variations of the name of multiple commercial partnerships can create confusion – intended or unintended – in identifying the real operator and which company is actually responsible for the operation,” said the court, adding however, that doing so was not a complicated exercise, as identifying the real company only required a close examination of the name variations.

Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran, Charles Mercieca and Ana Thomas were defence counsel to Christian Borg.

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