Steve Abela, the President of White Flag International running a project endorsed by the Environment Ministry to place flags worth €25,000 a pop on ‘plastic free’ beaches in Malta, has severed all ties with the project following revelations by The Shift News that raised questions on whether this was all an elaborate scam created by a Croatian with a dubious past.
Abela, owner of Lord’s Gym, has told The Shift News that he supported the project on a voluntary basis, and that he never had a contract for his work. He also said that he never claimed “qualifications, expertise or experience connected with marine environmentalism in connection with his support of White Flag International”.
Abela was roped in by Kristijan Curavić – the Croatian behind the big White Flag idea that won the endorsement of top government officials even though Environment Minister Jose Herrera admitted he did not conduct any due diligence. Abela said he gave no input into the project’s relationship with the government.
Unlike Abela, Curavić does claim environmental credentials although he does not publicise his failed projects and the criticism levelled at him in other countries on the funding of his projects.
Curavić has been telling the press that he intends to sue The Shift News for what it exposed, as well as Camilla Applegren of Malta Clean Up for her open criticism of the project after this news portal revealed the amount that was being paid for each flag, and the fact that the money paid by sponsors was transferred straight to an account in Zagreb, Croatia.
Now, the only Maltese individual involved in the leadership of the project has told The Shift News that he has cut all ties with the organisers. He said that he ended his support for the project on 10 December, a few days after revelations by The Shift News.
Since The Shift News revealed the story, a spokesperson for the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation also said it would be suing White Flag International for its continued use of its logo apparently to depict a partnership that does not exist.
Curavić played this down, while the logo of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation has been quietly removed from pages on the project’s web site. Curavić also keeps talking about suing The Shift News, although no formal notification has been received. Any law suit would of course lead to The Shift News using all the evidence in its hands in court.
The Shift News also revealed Curavić was accused of being a fraudster by a former employee; and this after he “reinvented “ himself as “a cleaner of the oceans” following a failed project in which €50,000 “disappeared”.
In Malta, at €25,000 per flag for seven beaches already carrying the White Flag, the project raised some €175,000 – although Curavić said the Gozo Ministry that committed to have White Flags all over Gozo, got “two for the price of one”.
Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana has never admitted to committing taxpayers’ money to these White Flags, although sources close to government have informed The Shift News that the Ministry has not yet paid the money so it intends to justify its position on those grounds as opposed to explaining to the public why it committed tens of thousands of euro on a project on which it conducted no due diligence.
Curavić has framed the revelations on his project as “an attack on the Maltese government,” which raises further questions on his close connections with top officials in the government.