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MaltaToday 12 April 2023 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 12 APRIL 2023 2 No Deposit offensive: customers alleging fraud have filed false report MATTHEW AGIUS HIRE-PURCHASE company No Deposit Cars has claimed to be the victim of an "orchestrat- ed mudslinging campaign" by a group of customers attempting to evade their contractual obli- gations, in its reply to a judicial protest filed by the customers. The company, its parent com- pany Princess Holdings, its owner Christian Borg and its di- rector Joseph Camenzuli, filed a counter-protest on Tuesday to a judicial protest filed on Thurs- day by 26 of its customers. Amongst the claims are that some of the customers had been forced or induced to pay over €1,000 for imaginary con- traventions, and to have been forced to make monthly pay- ments of hundreds of euros for over three years, "for cars which they had never seen, much less driven." They are requesting that Borg be prosecuted for of- fences relating to fraud and or- ganised crime. The counter-protest, signed by lawyers Giannella De Marco and Charles Mercieca, lambasts the 26 plaintiffs for "allowing themselves to be part of an or- chestrated mud-slinging cam- paign" against the companies, saying that "one would expect reference to have been made to clear and precise facts and not to generic and imprecise allega- tions." The court filing claims that one of the plaintiffs had ap- proached the company directly in order to disassociate himself from the judicial protest, con- tending that "his name was list- ed without his consent." Borg categorically denied ev- er telling a customer that no- body could do anything to him because he was backed up by powerful people and to tell the police that the car belonged to him if it was ever stopped. Besides a categorical denial of the allegations made in the ju- dicial protest, Borg, Camenzuli and the companies said they "are holding the protestors re- sponsible for the crime of filing a false report, as well as in dam- ages for personal and commer- cial defamation," and reserved the right to take legal action to recover the damages. Borg and the others are claim- ing that every car rental or "lease to buy" company adopts the practice of not transferring ownership of vehicles it sells until the stipulated selling price is paid in full. They also took issue with the claims relating to issuing false receipts and demanding pay- ments for cars which had not been delivered, saying this was untrue and arguing that the fact that the clients in question had not been identified deprived them of the opportunity to in- vestigate and rebut the allega- tions specifically. The same observation was made about the judicial pro- test's allegation that Borg and the others had formed a crim- inal organisation, as there had been no attempt to substantiate the claim with evidence. "This is not only unjust from the le- gal aspect because it effectively constitutes a false report," reads the counter-protest. The lawyers argued that the fitting of hire-purchase cars with tracking devices was an ac- cepted and regulated practice in the UK and had also been noted by the European Court of Hu- man Rights in a recent judge- ment. Insisting that the contract was similar to that used by other car rental companies in the market, they said it would be "interest- ing to see whether the allega- tion… also applies to similar contracts that are made by tens of other companies in similar contexts." Government has opposed Steward's request for a reference to the European Courts No Deposit Cars on the offensive, holds complaining customers "responsible for filing false report" MATTHEW VELLA AIR Malta was hit by a shortage of one aircraft during its peak Easter weekend, which resulted in significant delays to its Zurich service on Easter Sunday, 9 April, as well as its Rome and Brussels flights on Easter Monday, and London Gatwick on Tuesday 11 April. Air Malta said in a statement it was not possible for the airline to source a replacement aircraft from elsewhere, at such short timescales. Air Malta's 2023 Summer schedule is designed to operate with eight aircraft units, all of which are fully crewed with the required number of pilots and cabin crew. But the airline currently has one of its own aircraft in heavy main- tenance through until mid-May 2023. "Air Malta has planned to take delivery of two A320neo air- craft in early 2023. During this transition period of aircraft mov- ing in and out of its fleet, it has been necessary to wet-lease two alternative aircraft to cover the scheduled flying. One of these wet-leased aircraft experienced a technical issue on the morning of Sunday 9th April, which resulted in it being withdrawn from ser- vice," the airline said. During summer, Air Malta will operate a very intense and ex- panded flying programme of 155 weekly return direct services to 23 destinations. "The withdrawal of an aircraft from the fleet for any period of time will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the flying pro- gramme. At no point in time were the disruptions over Easter caused by either a shortage of pi- lots or cabin crew as reported in certain sections of the media. "Air Malta has the correct flight deck and cabin crew comple- ment to operate its entire Sum- mer 2023 programme. Air Malta would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to its cus- tomers during this very busy hol- iday period and is working hard to rectify the situation." Air Malta aircraft shortage, not staff issues, leads to Easter weekend delays

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