MaltaToday | 10 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 10 August 2008

ADT snatches 390 cars

The aggrieved owners of cars registered outside Malta have complained at the legal uncertainty concerning the status of their cars when their foreign road licences expire.
A total of 390 foreign-registered cars have been confiscated since 2006 because of an expired road tax disk, 30 of which still lie homeless inside a Marsa compound manned by the Civil Protection Department.
While owners of Malta-registered vehicles are normally fined if caught exhibiting an expired road tax disk on their windscreen, Transport Authority (ADT) officials will go as far as confiscating on the spot any foreign-registered vehicle with an expired road licence during roadside checks.
Since Malta’s entry into the Schengen zone, foreign motorists arriving to Malta with their cars are no longer checked upon entry for registration purposes.
But while this process seems to suggest that both drivers of foreign-registered vehicles and Maltese-registered vehicles enjoy the same privileges, the reality is different.
Without any warning to foreign motorists to ensure their road licence fees are regularised back home, ADT officials will just stop a car, take the keys and impound the vehicle if they find that the road licence has expired.
While Maltese law prohibits motorists from keeping their vehicle on the road without a valid road licence, owners of foreign-registered vehicles seem to be paying a harsher penalty for the same offence, finding themselves unable to commute while visiting the country.
“ADT officials themselves do not know how this works out exactly, let alone foreigners,” one owner who experienced the misfortune of having his car confiscated, said.
“In the UK, if you are not using Her Majesty’s roads, you apply for a specific scheme which temporarily relieves you from paying tax on the roads. I applied for this scheme and toured Europe in my car. I have travelled to Austria, Germany, France and Italy in my car and nobody ever fined me, let alone confiscated my car.”
Another owner pointed out the lax enforcement of the law in Italy: “In Italy nobody pays road tax and nobody gets fined. The road tax system there is taken as seriously as the Maltese take their TV license.”
The Italian government may not be very strict on the collection of road tax, while in some Scandinavian countries, road tax doesn’t even exist. In other European countries, road tax is only paid when using highways, or when commuting through city centres.
“We confirm your observation that the road license disk affixed on vehicle windscreens serves different purposes in each Member State and each region within the same member states,” a spokesperson for the Ministry for Transport said.
“This is the reason why it is necessary to stop the vehicle during roadside checks. Roadside checks are carried out on all vehicles bearing a foreign-registered number plate, irrespective of whether the vehicle carried a windscreen license. Once stopped, checks are carried on documentation confirming whether the vehicle is registered, licensed and insured in its country of origin.”
To foreign motorists who are getting their cars down to Malta, the strict enforcement of the law by ADT officials should serve as a future warning: make sure your road licence is paid before coming to Malta.

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