Former employees and sponsor of Kristijan Curavić’s ‘environmental’ projects in other countries have accused the Croatian behind the White Flag project in Malta, that has received a great deal of attention and hefty sums of money, of being “a fraudster”.
The Shift News revealed this week how Curavic has won the endorsement of top officials in the Maltese government that led to White Flags being placed on seven beaches in Malta and Gozo.
Sources who spoke to The Shift News said the individuals were charging €25,000 a flag – almost €200,000 from Malta in less than a year. Money paid for sponsorships of White Flag beaches in Malta were transferred to a bank in Zagreb, Croatia.
Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which White Flag International claims is one of the project’s “partners,” told The Shift News last week that it would be proceeding with legal action after its warnings to have its logo removed from the project’s web site were ignored.
International media reports state that after a failed project in Antarctica, Curavić reinvented himself as “the cleaner of the seas,” creating projects in different countries in a war against plastic. Some €50,000 “disappeared” from one of his projects, but Curavić said he went “bankrupt” after promised funding for the project fell through.
He opened diving centres in Croatia, promising to clean up the Adriatic coast, but his projects there faced criticism too. A former employee and diver with Curavić – Maja Stanivuković – accused him of being “a fraudster” in an interview, saying he had used the income from the diving centre projects on dinners and cars instead.
She said she had not been paid for the work she had done for Curavić’s diving centres in Croatia. Curavić even failed to pay the necessary fees required by law for the diving licences he was issuing, she said. Curavić denied the claims.
In Malta, Curavić teamed up with the owner of a local gym, Steve Abela, to set up White Flag International and an ‘international certification’ for plastic free beaches promoted by Ocean Alliance.
Investigation and monitoring of the work being done by White Flag International in Malta showed little or no work followed to maintain the promise of a White Flag, which is meant to denote a marine environment that is “plastic free”.
When Environment Minister Jose Herrera – an “ally” of the project from the start according to the project’s web site – raised the first White Flag at Wied iz-Zurrieq, Curavić had said: “Our divers will be going down and bringing up a few tonnes every day until there is no waste left. Then it will be monitored regularly to ensure it is one of the cleanest beaches in the world”.
Despite the promise, Ghajn Tuffieha, one of the seven beaches ‘awarded’ a White Flag status needed an emergency clean up last week after storms washed large amounts of plastic on to the sand, ridiculing claims of a plastic free marine environment.
Malta Clean Up, an NGO that has organised clean ups and worked with over 60 local councils and thousands of volunteers for the last seven years in Malta, raised serious concerns on the government’s support for the project in a statement yesterday.
The NGO said the White Flag initiative was first perceived by citizens as a free scheme where beaches would be getting a flag as a sign that it is being managed. Revelations by The Shift News have confirmed “a rumour” last summer that they actually came at great cost, the organisation said.
As well as the local clean up groups, there are over 60 dive centres in Malta and Gozo that also organise clean ups regularly. “Anyone that has followed the development the last decade knows that Malta has gone from seeing one clean up per year to one clean up per week,” said Camilla Appelgren who has managed to mobilise thousands of volunteers to get involved in clean ups around the island.
The NGO published a list of concerns, saying it was time for Herrera to answer the questions on the project the organisation sent to him in March.