The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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Magistrate orders police to identify and investigate public officials behind Siggiewi voter fraud

Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 16:44 Last update: about 11 days ago

A magistrate has ordered the police to investigate and identify the public officials and entities who had manipulated voters into changing their address to a Siġġiewi construction site ahead of the upcoming local council and EU elections.

The order was handed down by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, in her capacity as the Revisory Official in several cases filed by the PN, in which the party is requesting the revocation of the recent changes in address of several voters.

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Last week, Magistrate Frendo Dimech had conducted an in-person site visit to see for herself before taking into account the PN’s claim that the Binja Silvio Parnis housing project in Siggiewi, where 99 voters from other districts had been registered as residing, was actually uninhabitable.

When the cases were called on Wednesday afternoon, a police officer stationed at Żebbuġ was called to the witness stand to exhibit bodycam footage showing the magistrate’s site visit at the housing project.

The court, after thanking the officer and sending him on his way, proceeded to hand down judgement.

Ruling that there “could be no doubt” that the voters in question had not taken the initiative to register themselves at the specified address, the magistrate said that it was “shameful that they had been taken advantage of and manipulated by people who were entrusted with looking after their interests and wellbeing.”

The magistrate said that it was disconcerting that one of the voters had been promised social housing in October 2021, but was only allocated an apartment earlier this year with contracts still being drawn up.

She also expressed concern at the involvement of Malita Investments PLC - a company set up to build social housing in Malta, in which the Government is the majority shareholder and which has five of the seven-strong board of directors, appointed by the Government.

Noting that the law speaks of the ordinary place of residence in deciding which electoral district voters fell under, the court said it had “seen first hand that nobody lived there, be it ordinarily or extraordinarily and that the occupants had not even been given the keys to the properties, which were meant to be handed over upon signing the contract.”

A witness from the Identita’ agency had confirmed that it had been Malita’s CEO Jennifer Falzon who had personally sent several of her staff members to greet the persons allocated apartments in the block, “precisely inside room 711 in entrance 7,” in order to change their ID card address.

An Identita’ official had also been on site there, signing and confirming as a witness that the electors in question resided in the building, which was clearly empty, said the court.

“The haste with which this change of address was carried out is evidenced by the fact that many of the required fields are blank, but they were nonetheless accepted by Identita.”

“Not only this, but an official from Identita’ had confirmed under oath that the person in question resided there. This was shown to be false, a month later when the court visited the site itself.”

Every application for connection to the water and electricity service with ARMS had also been made by Falzon, said the magistrate, submitted two days before the electoral application was filed and at least 48 hours later, the apartment had been connected to the water and electricity grid.

Frendo Dimech expressed astonishment at the extraordinary efficiency with which the change of address had been processed, and quipped that she hoped that this efficiency would be applied to every applicant going forward.

The electors who were sent to change their ID card address when their ordinary place of residence was still not habitable had effectively been induced into making a false declaration to a public authority, observed the magistrate.

“False declarations to a public authority are a crime and it is worrying that electors had been instructed to make illegal declarations, potentially making them complicit in the crimes mentioned.”

The magistrate also ordered that copies of the judgement be served to the commissioner of police and recommended perjury charges against one applicant, who had lied under oath when he told the court that he had a key and had signed the contract “around a week or two” before giving evidence in court.

The PN’s requests were upheld and the changes in address were revoked, with the magistrate also ordering the Electoral Commission to review the electoral register to reflect this.

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