Driving lesson

Senior official accused of bribing in car driving test implicates minister

Updated at 7:13 p.m. with commentary from Ian Borg

A government minister has been linked to a bribery case over driving theory tests involving three Transport Malta officials.

Transport Malta’s director for the Land Transport Directorate Clint Mansueto, former Żebbuġ labor adviser Philip Edrick Zammit and Raul Antonio Pace have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Testifying on Monday, the prosecution inspector said the investigation began about two years ago, after police received a report from an interpreter that people who did not need an interpreter s were assigned one.

When questioned by police, Mansueto told police he was pressured by a minister, who was not named in court, to help some people pass their driving test. The individuals would have worked at the minister’s villa.

Further investigations saw police seize diaries and mobile phones, which showed individuals being assigned specific driving examiners to ensure they passed their test.

The court heard how the translator was summoned to Floriana de Mansueto’s office to tell her to indicate the correct answer to those selected.

Two of the candidates were of Pakistani and Albanian nationality, while a third was Maltese. Zammit would have been present until the end of the tests.

The Pakistani reportedly passed the test after the translator helped him find the correct answers. The Albanian was also assisted.

According to the prosecution inspector, the translator received cash payments directly from Mansueto rather than through official channels.

The police managed to trace a text message from the minister complaining about the difficulties encountered by a certain individual. His phone also revealed conversations with people linked to a political party, with a list of people who needed to get their driver’s license.

The political party was not named in court.

Discussions between Zammit and Mansueto also showed Zammit asking if there were “any candidates who needed a boost.”

Investigators also said reviewers would be contacted by Zammit and Mansueto, who used to flag a list of candidates needing help.

In 2020, until the elections in March this year, Transport Malta fell under the remit of Ian Borg as Minister responsible for Transport and Roads.

In comments to Malta Today, Borg denied ever pressuring officials to give preferential treatment to certain applicants. Borg added that he always forwards any complaints, requests for assistance, or suggestions he receives to the relevant CEOs and directors for review “without suggesting or pressuring for preferential treatment or wrongdoing.”

The former superior of TM reported the names of the candidates to Mansueto

It was also revealed in court that among those who reported the names of the candidates to Mansueto was his former superior at Transport Malta, Donald Gouder.

The inspector told the court that Gouder helped Mansueto when the latter applied for the job. Mansueto was given a screenshot of the score sheet, circling the questions the candidate needed to focus on.

It was alleged that Gouder’s son was assisted in his practical exam by the examiner chosen by Clint Mansueto.

Gouder is involved with Qrendi FC, which is coached by Jesmond Zammit, who was assistant to Foreign Minister Ian Borg.

A Labor Party councilor resigned from his post a month ago

Zammit was a Labor Party councilor in Zebbug before stepping down from his post about a month ago.

MaltaToday is advised that he currently sits as an Independent Advisor.

He had been elected on the Labor ticket in the 2019 local council election.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jacob Magri appear for Mansueto, lawyers Joe Giglio and Roberta Bonello represent Pace. Attorney Herman Mula appears for Zammit.

Attorney General attorneys Abigail Caruana Vella and Gary Cauchi assisted Detective Wayne Borg in the prosecution.

The case is heard by magistrate Rachel Montebello.

The next session will be on September 15.