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Malta wildlife police accused of bribery by hunter

Just days before the start of the autumn hunting season in Malta, the police unit responsible for monitoring hunting offences is being hounded by allegations of bribery after a hunter claimed to have paid police money in exchange for tip-offs on raids.

A police officer is expected to be arraigned on bribery charges and two others have been disciplined internally over less serious claims. The allegations surfaced during an interrogation of a 38 year old hunter who was arrested over illegal hunting in April.

The Minister of Justice Dr Mifsud Bonnici said there "was no room for rotten apples within the police corps" and praised the action taken by the Police Commissioner J Rizzo:

"The fact that the Commissioner of Police immediately took all the necessary disciplinary and criminal action against the officers involved proves that the force has effective and efficient mechanisms to detect wrongdoing within its ranks and act decisively," the minister said.

As in previous years a group of 22 bird guards from the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) will arrive in Malta on 10 September. Together with partners International Animal Rescue Malta, they will patrol the countryside, particularly the well known 'hot spots', and record and report all illegal actions which take place during the open season. The volunteers will remain on the island until 26 September but their stay may be extended depending on migration. Following the incidents which took place during the spring earlier this year, for the first time professional security guards will be hired to accompany some of the teams. For the first time this year a German TV crew will be in Malta to film and report any illegality which takes place.

As in previous years CABS will be co-operating and work closely with the ALE (wildlife) section of the police. Max Farrugia, IAR's Chairman in Malta, said that the recent allegations would not hinder the work of the ALE, adding that the majority of members within the unit are honestly motivated members of the force.

Hunting on land for quails and turtle doves starts on 1 September and continues until 31 January. Hunting is forbidden after 3pm between 15 and 30 September.