Igaming companies in Malta that together contributed tens of thousands of euro to sponsor the White Flag project for ‘plastic-free’ beaches are moving towards taking legal action against the man behind the idea, a project that The Shift revealed to be a scam.
The Igaming companies have extended an offer to the Maltese government to join the case. A month later, the government has as yet not confirmed it will join the effort and recover taxpayers’ money given to the project.
“I would like to confirm that a number of iGaming companies are investigating a joint legal action against the WhiteFlag organisation and Kristijan Curavić for alleged breach of contracts. An offer to join said legal action has been extended to the Maltese Government,” the chairperson of Igaming European Network iGEN, Enrico Bradamante, told The Shift.
The government’s endorsement of the project helped convince these companies it was a project worth supporting. Environment Minister Jose Herrera then admitted that no due diligence had been done on the Croatian proposing the project. The project praised him as “a pioneer in ocean protection” for his endorsement. He did not enter into contracts with them, Herrera said, so he was not defrauded. Yet, others did.
Bradamante confirmed that the project organisers were in breach of contracts signed with Igaming companies, having failed to deliver on commitments.
The White Flag project was the concept of Croatian Kristijan Curavić, meant to certify beaches and the surrounding marine environment ‘plastic-free’. When The Shift attended the launch of the White Flag at Gnejna Bay, it was immediately evident the environmental ‘experts’ were not all they were claiming to be.
The Shift revealed the project to be a scam. An industry insider had revealed that €25,000 had been paid for one flag, and the money sent directly to a bank in Croatia.
Further investigation revealed that even as Maltese Ministers, as well as Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, were lining up with him to promote the project the Curavić was facing charges of fraud for similar projects that he promised and failed to deliver in his home country.
The Shift published court documents from Croatia that refer to thousands of euro given in sponsorship to Curavić for his project that “disappeared”. Curavić has denied the charges.
Curavić left Malta soon after The Shift revealed its findings, including the fact that Curavić was using fake endorsements of international celebrities. When contacted, Bianca Jagger and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation denied links to the project.
He popped up in The Seychelles where the government announced a project for 40 White Flags on the country’s beaches on 14 August. It was withdrawn two days later, after the press in the country reported The Shift’s findings.
Igaming companies that sponsored the project in Malta are now having to look into ways to recover their funds. The offer by these companies to the Maltese government opens the door to the possibility that taxpayer money may also be recovered, if it agrees to join the case.
Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana alone committed €29,000 for two White Flags. This was revealed through a Freedom of Information request sent by Camilla Appelgren and published by The Shift for the contract signed between the Gozo Ministry and White Flag International.
The Gozo Ministry has refused to answer further questions on the project or attempts to recover taxpayer funds.
Meanwhile, another Freedom of Information request filed with the Environment Minister on the matter has not been answered, even after the time limit set by law.
Bradamante told The Shift that legal action was also aimed at securing a conviction of fraud so Curavić would no longer be able to do the same in other countries.
“The project, as was presented, was (and still is) absolutely worthwhile and aligned with the companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. The Igaming community feels very passionately about protecting the environment in general, and about doing our part to improve the environment where we live,” Bradamante said.