Former Gozo Channel employee found guilty of ‘joke’ theft
An incident by a Gozo Channel employee, who hid an envelope containing €3,000 and claimed it was a joke, has resulted in a court sentence of 50 hours community service.
Magistrate Joseph Mifsud scolded Gozo Channel in the judgement, after the company failed to present a note of submissions in a case in which it was parte civile.
“Disappointingly,” the Court noted, Gozo Channel “is not proceeding along the same lines in cases appearing before this court. While in cases of a few euros it brings to bear all its cannons against those accused, in this case regarding a substantial amount of cash it remained passive. Justice must not look at faces, and must treat everyone equally!”.
The accused, Joseph Portelli worked as a ticket collector with the Gozo Channel until July 2014. The accused was at work on 25 June, 2014, when he found around €3,000 in an envelope on the baggage trailer that another employee, Emanuel Cremona, was using. When the accused found the envelope, he went to hide it in his vehicle.
The cash belonged to ticket seller Rosette Sillato, and had been collected through ticket sales she had made that day. Once Mr Cremona noted the missing envelope, he informed his workmates. Both he, as well as Mrs Sillato, proceeded to search for it. After some time passed, Mr Portelli went to his vehicle, grabbed the envelope, and gave it to Mr Cremona, telling him that it was a joke. The envelope was still sealed.
Following a news report, the police launched in investigation and asked the Gozo Channel why no report regarding attempted theft was made.
The Court said that Gozo Channel had no intention of filing a police report on this incident. “According to Chairman Joseph Cordina, an internal inquiry was held, and the case was closed there”. The case was then externalised after a media report.
Chairman Joseph Cordina, testifying, said that the situation was a ‘ċajta goffa’ (practical joke), and “I believe it was an internal disciplinary matter. I don’t think this was a case where the police need to get involved. Everything was found as they left it, the envelope was not opened.”
The Court, in its judgement, said “with all due respect to the chairman, it is not within his competence to decide on what are criminal acts”.
Mr Cremona also testified that he understood the whole incident was a joke. Another witness, Joe Vella, said that the money was returned after he had informed management that he saw Joseph Portelli on the cameras.
The court noted that, while the accused always held that this was a joke, his actions were not justified.
The court noted that when the envelope was taken and hidden in the accused’s car, that was theft. “The accused had no reason to take the cash and hide it in his personal vehicle”.
The court sentenced the accused to 50 hours community service.