For­mer Gozo Chan­nel em­ployee found guilty of ‘joke’ theft

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

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.

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