The Malta Financial Services Authority has awarded a €43,000 direct order to the former editor of The Malta Independent Rachel Attard for consultancy services on public relations, according to the Government Gazette.
Attard left her role as editor-in-chief in December 2019 to become a freelance media consultant. She was given the direct order from MFSA last March. She still retains a consultancy role with the newspaper while working for the financial regulator.
Attard is a familiar face, having spent years co-hosting the popular discussion programme BondiPlus, along with her partner, Lou Bondi, who also moved into PR from his journalism role to serve clients such as Silvio Debono for his controversial City Centre project at St George’s Bay. The controversial tower project has been linked to claims of corruption and political favouritism and launched a massive public relations campaign to counter public opposition.
Bondi had also been hired as a consultant by the Malta Arts Council, with a salary package of €51,000 annually. He was also employed by the government, soon after the Labour Party came to power in 2013, to form part of an agency responsible for organising national festivities.
After Robert Abela became Prime Minister, Bondi’s contract was terminated.
Attard’s role at the MFSA and her influence at an independent newspaper comes at a time when Malta faces increased scrutiny pending a Moneyval evaluation that risks the country being grey-listed.
Malta has plummeted 60 places in the span of a year in the Basel Institute’s Anti-Money Laundering Index, dropping from its “low risk” 113th place in 2019 to 53rd place in 2020.