Minister Ian Borg lied in Court. Magistrate Axiak declared that Borg cannot be believed.
In his judgment, the Magistrate did not disguise his disgust at Borg’s unscrupulous actions. He repeatedly emphasised Borg’s untruthfulness: “The court does not find the evidence of Ian Borg credible”.
“It is very very doubtful and unbelievable that in a small village like Dingli people do not know that a well-loved and well-known resident had mental health problems so serious that he required hospitalisation at Mount Carmel Hospital,” the magistrate added.
That well-loved man was 66-year old Anthony Scicluna.
The psychiatrist, who cared for Scicluna for years, testified that he suffered from schizoaffective disorder, a serious condition requiring antipsychotic injections and repeated hospital admissions. Despite treatment, the gentleman suffered frequent relapses characterised by paranoia towards his family – believing they were doing things behind his back and everything to harm him – despite their care.
His condition caused him to become manic and disinhibited leading to rushed decisions. He suffered from cognitive impairment and was easily influenced. In the psychiatrist’s words “he is someone who is very, very vulnerable”.
Borg knew Scicluna for 18 years. He knew about the family “disagreements” – which is why the court found it “extremely difficult to believe Ian Borg did not know about his mental health problems”. Cynically, Borg claimed he knew the man as a “jovial character”.
“The fact alone that Ian Borg knew (because the court does not believe he didn’t) that he had a vulnerable individual with him…” the sentence read. The court could not be clearer – Borg lied.
Even worse, Borg lied to cover his heinous guilt – robbing a mentally ill man of his inheritance – a piece of land Borg coveted.
Scicluna confided with his doctors that he never had the intention of selling. This was documented in the medical notes. He told his son, “The land is my inheritance from my father and it will be your inheritance”.
Borg knew the man didn’t want to sell. On 6 August, months before the sale, Borg asked Scicluna to sell him the land. Scicluna refused. Borg wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He met Mark Farrugia, Scicluna’s nephew, at a Dingli Band Club around Christmas and asked him to persuade his uncle to sell. Borg’s driver and others from the parliamentary secretary’s circle sent messages or spoke to Scicluna or his family to exert pressure (“biex joholqu pressjoni fuqna”). Ninu Vassallo finally obtained the crucial information for Borg – the property belonged to Scicluna alone.
On 11 January 2014, her husband was taken to Paceville where he drank heavily, according to Scicluna’s wife. Scicluna’s daughter testified that her father also had gambling and alcohol issues, the latter contraindicated because of his medication. That night Scicluna returned home at 2am telling his wife “they forced me to sell the field to Ian Borg”.
The following day, Scicluna informed his nephew that he had “accepted” to sell the land. Farrugia contacted Borg immediately – at lunchtime. Borg called Notary Anton Borg, on a Sunday, and arranged for them to meet at his office the following day.
That afternoon Scicluna was in an agitated state. He shouted “I gave them the field” waving a flick knife at one of his sons. He subsequently left the house while his family frantically looked for him. They received a call informing them that he was at the Dingli Labour Party club in a drunken state. When his son went to pick him up, Scicluna was so intoxicated he could not recognise his own son and refused to go home.
Scicluna’s son, Alexander, phoned Borg to stop the sale but somebody else took the call. Borg did not reply. Sharon, Scicluna’s daughter sent Borg a message: “The field is not for sale”. He did not answer. When she went to bed that night her father had not returned home.
On Monday morning, Mark Farrugia drove Scicluna to the notary. Borg, ignoring the children’s desperate pleas, was waiting to pounce. Just a few hours after his drinking binge, Scicluna must have still been reeking of alcohol. No pre-contract or promise of sale was signed. A contract was sealed and published that very day. Scicluna got €10,000 – a mere pittance for his land. He refused to pay the tax and Borg paid it himself.
Alexander, Scicluna’s son again called Borg. “Do you know what you have done to a sick man?” he asked. The parliamentary secretary claimed that a doctor had been present at the notary. Of course, there was no doctor.
Scicluna’s wife testified her husband had been unwell for four months in bed before that weekend and never left the house. After the contract he told her repeatedly he never wanted to sell and that he had been coerced. He was admitted to hospital several times. When a journalist called Scicluna, 18 months later, he was still too distressed to talk about it.
The court concluded, “the parliamentary secretary was the brains behind the strategy”. It found it “illogical that the contract was finalised in less than 24 hours”. It was imperative on Borg to seek professional help for the vulnerable individual who was selling his property for peanuts.
The abuse of a mentally ill and vulnerable person is always revolting. Borg used his position of power to exploit an ill man for personal gain, then tried to cover his tracks. Instead of showing remorse, Borg audaciously attacked journalists’ “amateurism”.
Robert Abela is too weak, too morally pliable to act. Retaining in Cabinet “the brains” behind the “diabolical plan” is not only disgraceful and unpardonable but also suicidal. Abela should remember that failure to sack means he’ll forever watch his back. Whoever has no hesitation exploiting a mentally-ill elderly person to acquire a field will not think twice before stabbing his leader in the back to acquire the country.