[What follows is the text of a report that was published in Malta Today on this date in 2009:]
Gauci’s ‘friend’ is new link in Lockerbie saga
Defence team alleges Gauci brothers pocketed US reward for testimony
The defence team of Abdul Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, is claiming the evidence of a friend of star witness Tony Gauci was never presented at the trial because it could have undermined the prosecution’s case.
Al-Megrahi, 56, a former intelligence officer at the Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta, was accused and found guilty of planting the bomb inside a suitcase that exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, mainly on the strength of the testimony of Tony Gauci.
The Maltese shopkeeper claimed it was Megrahi who bought the clothes from his shop, Mary’s House in Tower Road, that were later found wrapped around the bomb in the suitcase.
But Maggie Scott QC has told the High Court in Edinburgh that evidence given by a friend of Gauci’s was never presented in the trial because it would have weakened the case against al-Megrahi, who was found guilty in 2001.
Al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal cancer, is appealing a life sentence after winning a retrial by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Board.
Scott said that David Wright, a friend of Tony Gauci, came forward to police in September 1989 and gave a statement to officers in England in December that year.
Scott said that Wright gave a “remarkably” similar description of a sale made at Gauci’s shop in Malta to the one used to implicate al-Megrahi.
Details of his statement, and whether it contradicted Mr Gauci’s evidence, had never been presented at the trial and had not been seen by the defence team.
“Mr Wright gives statements to police in England saying he was a friend of Mr Gauci and that he witnessed a transaction at Mr Gauci’s shop which bears remarkable resemblance to the sale to two men which Mr Gauci described,” Scott said.
She said his statement could have undermined Gauci’s testimony and that she wanted any documents relating to Wright to be produced.
Scott also asked the Crown to hand over any documents with reference to Gauci showing interest in a financial reward. She claims Gauci and his brother pocketed $2 million and $1 million by the US authorities, although the claim has never been verified.
Al-Megrahi’s lawyers claim they have evidence that Scottish detectives investigating the bombing recommended that Gauci, a shopkeeper from Malta, be given the payment after the case ended.
A delegation from the Scottish Crown is now expected in Malta to request permission to view the sensitive documents which al-Megrahi’s defence lawyers believe will help free their client.
Al-Megrahi was found guilty of the bombing, which killed all 259 people on board, at a trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, held under Scots law.
Although he lost a previous appeal against his conviction in 2002, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred his case back to court in June 2007. The commission found six grounds that may have constituted a miscarriage of justice.
Libya has paid out over $3.2 billion to the families of victims of the bombing.