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Michelle Muscat in outfit by prison labour scandal designer

Michelle Muscat Cessani
Michelle Muscat wearing a creation by Mary Grace Pisani who was at the centre of a scandal in 2016.

Mary Grace Pisani, the close friend of Michelle Muscat who was at the centre of the Corradino prison cheap labour scandal in 2016, has thanked Muscat for “choosing Cessani” – referring to her brand.

In two images posted on Pisani’s Facebook account, Muscat appears wearing a cream and white headdress with a matching dress for the inauguration of President George Vella. It led to a storm of comments on social media.

Pisani’s claim to fame was a scandal revealed in 2016, when 14 female inmates at Corradino prison said they were owed over €16,000 for work they had undertaken for her a year earlier.

The work was carried out for a project called ‘Love, Faith, Forgiveness’ , endorsed by the Marigold Foundation which is chaired by the Prime Minister’s wife.

Described as “the brainchild” of her friend Pisani, the inmates were trained over three months in sewing and various related skills. A private textiles company was then found to be using the inmates “little factory” operating out of the prison, for a number of commercial projects.

The inmates sewed curtains for an exhibition in parliament, produced soft furnishings for wards at St Vincent de Paul residence, and made over 400 costumes for the November 2015 Commonwealth summit.

The money which the inmates earned was supposed to be stored for safekeeping in their bank accounts – only accessible once they completed their sentences.

Problems arose in March 2016 when the inmates stated that they were owed thousands for the work they had done. It also transpired that they were being paid €3 per metre for the curtains, way below the market rate.

Pisani had claimed she did not profit from the arrangement, and that the inmates would be paid once payments had been received from the clients placing the orders.

Two inmates had since been released, but had not received a cent in their bank accounts for the work that they had done. According to reports, inmates had been asking Pisani when they would be paid, but they kept getting “brushed off”.

When asked about the lack of payments on a project endorsed by her foundation, Muscat had replied that the media should have asked her before the story was published, adding; “If you follow the media, my dear, you would know that I was on holiday”.

She also stated that the story was nothing more than “partisan reporting” and that journalists should “ask the government” for more information.

No stranger to lecturing journalists, Muscat lashed out at the media this week, saying they should not report “based on the agenda of those who lead them”.

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