Wednesday, 27 July 2011

MaltaToday: 'Edgar Galea Curmi asked me to do something I couldn't' - John Rizzo. MaltaToday, 'we will not be intimidated'

Edgar Galea Curmi (C) flanked by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (L) and Gordon Pisani, (R) during a visit to Latvia last year

MaltaToday responds to Edgar Galea Curmi's libel threat and says that "it is not in this paper's character to bow down to intimidation". Police Commissioner John Rizzo admits to receiving a phone call from Castille the day after he got to know about Cyrus Engerer's father's arrest.

Commissioner of Police John Rizzo has called on government to launch an inquiry into the way the police force has handled the criminal cases related to Cyrus Engerer and his father Chris over the past weeks.

Engerer, a PN councillor who recently defected to Labour, is being charged with holding explicit pictures in his PC - a day after his father Chris was arrested over possession of 5g of cannabis.

John Rizzo admitted to having received a phone call from Edgar Galea Curmi - the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff - the day after Cyrus Engerer's father was arrested over possession. According to Rizzo, Galea Curmi called asking about the Chris Engerer case.

Rizzo said he did not know how Galea Curmi had come to know of the arrest, but understood that Cyrus Engerer was next to him while he was making the call.

Rizzo said that Galea Curmi told him that Chris Engerer's lawyers were calling the police investigation being politically motivated and asked the Commissioner to meet up with the lawyers to explain the investigation.

"He asked me to do something which I couldn't do," Rizzo said. "I told him that one day or another the truth would come out in court, and I didn't need to explain anything to the lawyers. God forbid the police would have to work in this way ..."

At the same time that the Commissioner was holding his press conference, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a statement to deny allegations of "fingers being pointed towards Castille".

The statement was also addressed to MaltaToday: "The Office of the Prime Minister categorically denies being in possession of, and passing on, any such information to any media house.'

Chris Engerer's arrest

John Rizzo has insisted that it was unfair to accuse him of being "led by Castille" in the investigations and defended his integrity by stating that throughout his long career, he was never "politically motivated".

John Rizzo said that the Cyrus Engerer charges had "absolutely nothing" to do with his father's arrest, and added that although Chris Engerer was known to the police this was part of the police drug squad's priorities.

The police chief revealed that an informant had called Assistant Commissioner Neil Harrison on July 6, who in turn followed up the case. Rizzo said a search warrant was then issued in respect of Chris Engerer, who was later found to be in possession of five grammes of marijuana.

When asked by journalists why the police had acted now on Chris Engerer and not before given that they knew about him, Commissioner Rizzo was evasive and repeated that the force has "priorities to investigate." Rizzo had said that Chris Engerer was not a new name with the police force.

The Police Commissioner said he felt personally 'insulted' that allegations were being levelled at his integrity and towards his officers.

Cyrus Engerer's charges

With regards to charges being brought against Cyrus Engerer, almost two years from when they had been lodged by his former boyfriend, John Rizzo said that this was a Cyber Crime Unit investigation over a report by Marvic Camilleri.

Camilleri - he said - reported that explicit pictures of him were being circulated by email and the investigation took long because Cyrus Engerer was working abroad and could not be reached for interrogation. Rizzo also added that investigations by the Cyber Crime Unit take time.

Police Inspector Grech, of the Valletta police station, was responsible of the case as Camilleri had filed his report there. Rizzo, said the investigation continued on June 23. Reportedly, Engerer approached Inspector Grech to have his case sped up and brought before the courts.

The police inspector has meanwhile denied forwarding a copy of the charges to the media as they were presented to court yesterday.

PM’s Chief of Staff replies

In a statement issued through the Department of Information, Edgar Galea Curmi – the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – admitted to phoning the Commissioner of Police when in the company of Cyrus Engerer, and discussed Chris Engerer’s arrest.

Galea Curmi also admitted to being Cyrus Engerer’s godfather at confirmation. He also admitted to asking the Commissioner to meet with Chris Engerer’s lawyer Carlo Bisazza.

The statement

“On Friday 22 July late morning I received a phone call from Cyrus Engerer. I took the phone calland promised Cyrus to phone him back as I was in a meeting. I phoned Cyrus back around 1330 and, while speaking on the phone, I bumped into him outside the Xara Palace Hotel in Mdina.

Cyrus told me that he was speaking to me as a friend because his father had been arrested. This was the first time I got to know about Chris Engerer’s arrest. Cyrus told me that his father’s lawyer, Dr. Carlo Bisazza, had told him that “he was to expect such incidents now that he had taken the plunge and resigned from PN. I told him that I was only hearing about this incident from him and immediately phoned the Commissioner of Police, in front of Cyrus and in a way that he could hear every single detail of the phone call.

The Commissioner of Police stated to me that report on Cyrus’s father had been filed before Cyrus’s resignation from PN. I explained to the Commissioner of Police what Cyrus had said that Dr. Bizazza had told him. The Commissioner of Police categorically denied any relationship whatsoever between Cyrus’s resignation from PN and the arrest of Cyrus’s father. I asked the Commissioner of Police to meet Dr. Bizazza and explain to him the facts. I understand that the Commissioner of Police decided not to follow my request to meet Dr. Bizazza and I respect his decision.

All the above can be testified by the Commissioner of Police and Cyrus himself.

On a personal level, I am Cyrus’s Confirmation godfather and care a lot for Cyrus and his family. I am deeply upset by the way certain elements in the media are manipulating two unfortunate incidents of people I deeply care for with the sole aim of defaming the Prime Minister and the people around him. As a result of these malicious stories, I have instructed my lawyer to institute libel proceedings against MaltaToday.”

MaltaToday: 'We will not bow down to intimidation'

In a statement, MaltaToday replied to Edgar Galea Curmi and said that it will continue to report the truth about everything that is in the public interest. "It is not in MaltaToday's character to bow its head down to intimidation by libel, and we promise our thousands of readers that we will continue to bring forward any information that is in the public interest."

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaToday's website.]

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