Former actress and human rights advocate Bianca Jagger is the latest in a string of people and organisations distancing themselves from the White Flag ‘environmental’ scheme endorsed by the government in Malta, saying it was not true that she formed part of the organisation’s Board.
The founder of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and a Council of Europe goodwill ambassador denied claims that she was a Board member of an affiliated organisation put forward by White Flag International, the organisation behind the controversial scheme revealed by The Shift News.
White Flag International was selling flags to denote ‘plastic free’ beaches in Malta at €25,000 a pop with very little to show for it. Sources said the money was being transferred to an account in Zagreb, Croatia, confirming doubts on the credentials of the project.
There was little tangible return for the tens of thousands of euro spent to sponsor ‘plastic free’ beaches as storms washed plastic onto the shores that had to be cleaned by government workers with the help of NGOs.
Further investigations found that the man with the big idea – Kristijan Curavić – was facing accusations of fraud abroad, after similar projects he proposed failed in other countries and money “disappeared”.
The only Maltese who lent his name to the project, Steve Abela, said he broke all contact with Curavić after The Shift News revealed his past. Abela said he had helped on a voluntary basis because he had really believed in the project.
“I cut all ties with him then. He left about a week after your articles came out,” he told The Shift News today. Asked whether he knew where Curavić was, Abela said: “I don’t know”.
Environment Minister Jose Herrera, whose endorsement Curavić used for support, admitted no due diligence had been conducted.
He did not think he was scammed, he said, because he had not entered into agreements with them. Yet the Gozo Ministry had already committed to having White Flags all over Gozo.
Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana would not state the value of that commitment, or what amount of taxpayers’ money was actually spent on the flags already in Gozo.
Curavić secured seven flags on Malta and Gozo’s beaches – worth close to €200,000 by their price tag – before The Shift News questioned what was being done with the money. When launching the latest White Flag at Gnejna Bay last month, Curavić told The Shift News: “We will cover all of Malta and Gozo’s beaches. After that, we will do the ports and harbours”.
It was a goldmine. The potential was endless. What would have happened if questions hadn’t be raised?
The sponsorship paid was meant to cover costs for maintenance, ensuring the sea bed and marine environment were regularly cleaned. The idea was to sell Malta as “the first plastic free ocean country” – never mind that we’re in the Mediterranean.
The White Flag project presents a number of ‘partner organisations’ with celebrities in their ranks in what seems to be an attempt to lend credibility to the project. Jagger was listed as a Board member of Global Underwater Awareness Association (GUWAA).
She is the latest in a list of celebrities denying links with the project. The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation also told The Shift News that White Flag International had ignored several warnings for it to stop using the foundation’s name for its purposes, saying it would be taking legal action.
Private sponsors have also been distancing themselves from the project, telling The Shift News they “no longer have a working relationship” with Curavić.
Questions put at the European Parliament have also questioned the endorsement of the project by Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who hails from the Labour Party in government.