It was disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who, barely two weeks from Konrad Mizzi’s forced resignation from the Cabinet last November, ordered the CEO of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), Johann Buttigieg, to sign a €90,000 consultancy contract with the former Minister, The Shift can reveal.
Last July, The Shift reported that Buttigieg, the politically-appointed CEO of the MTA, admitted that he had personally handled the questionable consultancy contract with Mizzi and that he had not discussed it either with the MTA’s Board or its chairman.
Refusing to publish correspondence he had involving this contract – later withdrawn when Robert Abela took over at Castille – Buttigieg had told The Shift that there was no correspondence, as he had only acted upon “verbal instructions from above”.
Pressed to state who had ordered him to hire Mizzi as an MTA consultant, Buttigieg had refused to divulge any information.
Now, The Shift can confirm that it was Muscat who had given the order in the months he had given himself following his resignation before leaving his post.
When Muscat announced his resignation on 1 December, but announced he would not leave his post until the following month. Apart from a whirlwind tour of different countries he visited as the non-prime minister of Malta, including a controversial trip to Dubai that The Shift had revealed was paid for him in Jordan, Muscat seems to have been busy settling other matters for those he has protected since the Panama Papers allegations.
The Shift has learned that Buttigieg immediately acted upon Muscat’s orders and signed the contract without question, despite the fact that it was possibly illegal since it required the approval of the Finance Ministry.
Mizzi, one of Muscat’s closest aides who signed off on most of the controversial deals negotiated by the Labour government, was forced to resign from the Cabinet on 26 November.
The following day, Muscat assigned himself the portfolio previously handled by Mizzi, which included the MTA.
Two weeks later, on 9 December, Mizzi was signing a contract with the MTA chief worth almost €8,000 per month (retainer fee plus perks). Apart from an annual salary of €80,400, the contract ordered by Muscat for Mizzi included an executive car and a full time chauffeur, with all expenses paid by taxpayers.
Also, Mizzi, his Chinese wife Sai and his two children who do not reside in Malta, were entitled to free international medical insurance, worth thousands per year.
Thanks to Muscat, Mizzi became a consultant for the Authority that fell under his responsibility as Tourism Minister only a few weeks earlier.
News of this ‘scandalous’ consultancy position given to the disgraced Minister hit the headlines soon after Robert Abela moved into Castille. Both Prime Minister Robert Abela and his newly appointed Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli denied any knowledge of the contract.
A few days later, it was announced that Mizzi’s contract had been rescinded.
In January, it was also revealed that Robert Abela had nominated Mizzi to head Malta’s delegation to the OSCE assembly. This was met with anger and Abela withdrew the nomination within hours. The OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media at the time, Harlem Désir, told The Shift the nomination was “incomprehensible and disturbing“.
After refusing to bow out of politics, on the request of the Prime Minister, Mizzi was expelled by Labour’s Parliamentary group. He continues to serve as an ‘independent’ member of parliament.