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Lands Leak: ‘Independent auditor’ assessing data breach is PL mayor

The mayor of Mqabba – a former reporter for the Labour Party’s One TV – was engaged directly by the Lands Authority without applying for the post.

Former One reporter and Owen Bonnici canvasser Charlene Muscat (formerly Zammit) now PL mayor Mqabba and 'independent' chief auditor at the Lands Authority in charge of the investigation into a massive data breach affecting thousands of Maltese citizens.

At a Glance:

  • Labour Party mayor Charlene Muscat was appointed ‘independent chief auditor’ earlier this year, aged 29 and with no real experience in audit.
  • Muscat is a politician and active campaigner for the Labour Party, promoting Justice Minister Owen Bonnici’s campaign.
  • She was also given a position at Identity Malta at the age of 26 – the agency falls under the Justice Minister’s responsibility.
  • At around the time she was given the position at the Lands Authority, the Minister responsible for the Authority – Ian Borg – announced a €2.2 million project for the village where Muscat is mayor.

The ‘independent chief audit officer’ the Lands Authority assured the public was leading the investigation into a massive breach of personal data from its site, is Labour politician and former One TV reporter Charlene Muscat, appointed to the post at the start of the year at the age of 29.

A statement by the Lands Authority following revelations by The Shift and The Times of Malta of a massive breach of personal data from the Authority’s web site on Friday, pointed out that “an internal investigation is being led by the Chief Audit Officer“.

Muscat is the mayor of Mqabba, engaged directly by the Lands Authority without applying for the post, despite her lack of experience in the field.

Muscat is herself one of those affected by the breach, with her ID card made available on Google search engines as a result of the massive data breach by the Lands Authority, The Shift News can reveal.

Yet the Authority was yesterday giving the public assurances that “no confidential information has been made public”.

The Lands Authority insisted the data leak only contained documents that citizens had consented would be made available for “public inspection”. The Authority ignored evidence contained in a leak of more than 10GB of data including citizen’s identity cards and passports, published on Friday in a joint collaboration between The Shift News and The Times of Malta.

The Authority’s statement showed it relied on mandatory check box disclaimers that are not permitted under new EU data protection regulations (GDPR) in force since May.

It is not yet known whether the Authority intends to notify those affected by the breach, estimated to be around 5,000 people, as required by law.

evidence personal data breach Lands Dept

Muscat, Mqabba mayor and the Lands Authority’s “independent chief auditor,” was also given a position at Identity Malta in 2015, at the age of 26.

Following her appointment, she was praised by Justice Minister Owen Bonnici for rendering due diligence services on citizenship schemes. He did not mention that she had endorsed and promoted his electoral campaign.

(Click on the image to watch the video of Muscat promoting the Justice Minister’s campaign)

charlene zammit promoting Owen Bonnici

During the board meeting that rubber-stamped the Labour mayor’s appointment, it was only Opposition spokesman Ryan Callus who objected on the grounds that such a post should not be held by an elected politician if the Authority wanted to appear sincere.

Transport Minister Ian Borg is responsible for the Authority. In January 2017, close to the time of her appointment as “independent” chief auditor of the Lands Authority, Borg announced a regeneration project of €2.2 million for the village of Mqabba where Muscat is mayor.

PL campaign promo charlene zammit
Spot the Lands Authority’s “independent chief auditor” in the Labour Party’s promotional campaign.

The Maltese government has over the past 10 years invested heavily in the Malta Information and Technology Agency (MITA) resources, over €7 million including highly secure servers (Tier 3) and equipment, including detailed requirements as regards hosting on government servers and security.

Yet, for some reason, a private company was trusted with handling the private data of citizens rather than the more secure option available to the State.

Those filling applications to the Authority thinking their data would be in official hands were instead sending their data to a private server, handled by other citizens (not civil servants answerable to the people) and outside of the boundaries imposed on MITA.

The company also handles the website for the Labour Party in government and the Prime Minister’s wife’s charity Marigold Foundation, among other clients that include Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi and pro-Muscat Sunday paper Kulhadd.

This raises the very serious question of whether citizens’ personal data could have shared or used for political purposes by those the government trusts more than MITA.

Note: Charlene Muscat was also referenced here as Charlene Zammit, her maiden name.

Minister Ian Borg Lands Authority

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