in

Ferris should not be silenced

Secrecy is undermining our collective security by weakening our trust in the institutions that have failed to act when faced by inconvenient truths.

Malta anti-corruption protest in Valletta. Photo: Civil Society Network.

Jonathan Ferris, who was sacked from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit a few days after the general elections, has told the Times and Sunday Times of London that he has made contingency plans to release the information on Pilatus Bank in the event of his death.

He also claims that he is regularly followed. “I will fight to get this information out, which is really damaging for the State and for the politicians and other government officials involved,” Ferris said.

As a former law enforcement officer with a reputation for zeal and rectitude, Ferris squarely fits the profile of the civic minded whistle blower, and he seems motivated by justice.

It is clearly in the public interest that the full contents of FIAU reports and investigations on this case are publicly divulged. This will throw light on one of the greatest scandals in recent Maltese history: the alleged involvement of government officials in money laundering activities and the alleged transfers of money from Azeri PEPs to Maltese PEPs.

Jonathan Ferris ex FIAU
Jonathan Ferris

Ferris is clearly a person who should be given full protection as a whistle blower.  If Ferris is in any way intimidated or harmed, the country risks losing valuable evidence that may lead to justice being done.  Instead, the State aims to silence him.

Last month, Attorney General Peter Grech – who also chairs the FIAU board of governors – filed an application demanding Ferris’s affidavit be removed from the case he initiated in the Industrial Tribunal for unfair dismissal. The AG cited national security issues.

The AG is further demanding that future sittings before the Industrial Tribunal be held behind closed doors, effectively barring access to the media.

Grech’s zeal to stop Ferris speaking contrasts with the lack of action shown by the institutions to commence investigations on Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

The AG is also the same person who would have to sign any potential request made by Ferris to be awarded whistle blower status.

Ferris, who risks a five-year jail term if he reveals the content of his investigations at the FIAU,  fully deserves being granted whistle blower status so he can spill the beans without facing any legal consequences. In the absence of institutional protection, he also deserves more support, especially from the Opposition. The Nationalist Party has not yet said a word on the fears raised by Ferris.

The only way out of this institutional mess is for Ferris to be granted full protection from facing any legal consequences for divulging information related to his FIAU investigations.  The public deserves to know the whole story.  The public also has a right to know who was responsible for sacking Ferris and whether Finance Minister Edward Scicluna had approved this decision.

In cases of alleged corruption, the country’s national security is never undermined by the truth. It is secrecy, and the attempt to muzzle people like Ferris, which is undermining our collective security by weakening our trust in the institutions that have failed to act when faced by inconvenient truths.

The way out of this mess

US lawyer who “praised” Malta passport programme not informed of corruption allegations