Friday, 21 October 2011

MaltaToday: Cyrusgate: 'unjustifiable' delay in pressing charges against councillor after drug swoop on his father

Police investigators took too long to press charges against Cyrus Engerer over a report of harassment by his ex-boyfriend.

Board of inquiry finds no grounds for political motivations in charges pressed against Cyrus Engerer and his father in aftermath of PN resignation.

[CORRECTED on 14 October at 2:05pm]

Cyrus Engerer told Galea-Curmi he is Labour’s ‘star candidate’ on 9th and 10th electoral districts

Police took too long to press charges against Cyrus Engerer but no political motivations can be determined

Police acted on information received on 6 July to conduct drug search on Engerer’s father after search warrant issued on 21 July

Prime Minister’s chief of cabinet says it was a ‘mistake’ in calling Commissioner of Police in the presence of CyrusEngerer


An independent inquiry into a controversial police action taken a week after Labour activist Cyrus Engerer resigned from the Nationalist Party, has found that police investigators took too long to press charges against him over a report of harassment by his ex-boyfriend.

Citing the “unjustifiable” 18-month duration, retired judge Albert Manchésaid that a political motivation for the charges pressed just 10 days afterEngerer’s resignation from the PN, in the highly-politicised aftermath of the divorce referendum, could not be excluded.

News that Engerer was facing harassment charges for having circulated compromising pictures of Marvic Camilleri was published in The Times on 26 July, the day after police pressed charges against Engerer.

That same week, Engerer publicly revealed that drug squad police had raided the house and bar owned by his father Chris Engerer in Sliema on 21 July, and found him smoking half a cannabis joint and carrying fivegrammes of resin.

Six-month duration to press charges

The inquiry reveals that on 15 January Marvic Camilleri filed a report against Engerer for circulating compromising pictures of a sexual nature of him to friends and his employer. The Cybercrime Unit concluded its investigation in March, but police officers testified they could not bring inEngerer for questioning because he was frequently abroad.

However during this time Camilleri informed the police investigators he had lost interest in the case and that Engerer had apologised to him. The charges were still issued on 25 July.

Drug charges against father

Police inspector Neil Harrison of the Drug Squad also testified that on 6 July, he received a tip-off from a reliable source that Engerer’s father Chris – who has a drug history of heroin and cannabis possession dating from the 1980s – was smoking cannabis regularly down at his bar on Exiles beach, Sliema.

Harrison said he was under no pressure to investigate the report, and that he obtained his search warrant on 20 July and conducted his search the next day. Chris Engerer was stopped outside his house by plain-clothes officers, where he was apprehended smoking a joint and then found carrying five grammes of cannabis resin. Nothing was found in his bar.

Chris Engerer was reported to have told police his arrest was related to his son’s resignation from the PN, but Harrison denied any political motivation, saying he was not aware of the familial relation.

Involvement of PM’s secretary

Concerned about the development, Cyrus Engerer met with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Edgar Galea-Curmi on 22 July, at the Xara Palace hotel in Mdina, to discuss the arrest.

Adding flavour to this stew of familial proximity is the fact that Galea-Curmi, a former social worker who had assisted Chris Engerer during his troubled past, was none other than a godparent of Cyrus Engerer. EdgarGalea-Curmi also told the board of inquiry Engerer now described himself as a star candidate for Labour.

So Galea-Curmi offered to call the Commissioner of Police in a bid to reassure Engerer that any charges pressed against his father had nothing to do with Engerer’s resignation, after his father’s lawyer Carlo Bisazzawarned him “to expect these kind of things” after breaking ranks with thePN.

The Commissioner denied the allegation to Galea-Curmi on the phone.Galea-Curmi also asked Rizzo to personally tell Engerer’s lawyer that the drug charges were not politically motivated, but Rizzo said the report had been filed six months earlier and that he did not interfere in prosecutions.

Cyrus Engerer told the board of inquiry he was unaware that Galea-Curmiwas speaking to the Commissioner. “I told him it was unfair that my family was being attacked… he was on the phone but I wasn’t next to him, he was walking in the street while talking.”

Galea-Curmi also claimed that after Engerer revealed this episode toMaltaToday, he felt his phone-call to Rizzo was a mistake. Galea-Curmiavailed himself of the personal blog of Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia to communicate his version of events.

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

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