The Malta Independent 17 July 2024, Wednesday
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OPM told alleged benefit fraud 'runner' to ditch lawyer Jason Azzopardi

Saturday, 22 June 2024, 11:39 Last update: about 25 days ago

A man accused of being one of the people behind a benefits fraud claimed he was told to ditch his lawyer Jason Azzopardi and not be prosecuted.

Roger Agius made the claim on Saturday morning during a radio show on RTK. “I got a message from the OPM (Office of the Prime Minister). They told me to ‘get rid of your lawyer’… We will get you a lawyer and you will not be charged,” he said.

Agius, who worked as a driver to parliamentary secretary Andy Ellul, is one of five men charged with having led a years-long fraud for people to get social benefits they were not entitled to. Agius has Azzopardi as his defence lawyer. Azzopardi is a former PN MP who now also represents NGO Repubblika, seen as being a main antagonist to the government.

Azzopardi, who was also guest on the show hosted by Andrew Azzopardi, said another client had made the same claim. Someone from OPM told them that if they repaid the money and “got rid of me as a lawyer” they would not be prosecuted.

Agius, who is pleading not guilty, described himself as a runner who relayed applications to a top official in the Social Policy Ministry. He said that the racket reached across various ministries who allegedly referred people to former MP Silvio Grixti, who is is being accused with Agius and others in the scam.

“Ministries would send people to him at all hours of the day, threatening him with business cards,” he said.

On Saturday, he said he applied for whisteblower status when he realised that information he provided police during interrogations was being leaked to the government.

“In my second or third statement to the police, I mentioned a cabinet member. The next day, that member of cabinet knew that I name-dropped them,” Agius said.

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