Economy Minister Silvio Schembri has made radical changes to the board of directors of Air Malta, axing its longest-serving member Joe Gasan but retaining his uncle, former Labour Minister Charles Mangion.
Mangion, together with Ray Sladden, are the only two members of the previous board of directors to retain their posts.
The removal of Gasan, who has been a member of Air Malta’s board of directors since the Labour Party’s return to power in 2013, occurs following press revelations on the Electrogas deal, in which Gasan Enterprises is a shareholder. In comments to The Shift, a spokesperson said Gasan had, in fact, tendered his resignation to the Air Malta board and was therefore not reappointed.
Despite the airline being on its knees, financially, with the possibility of bankruptcy on the horizon unless taxpayers once again sustain the injection of new funds into the ailing airline, the Economy Minister still packed the new board of directors with constituents and loyalists.
Most of the new appointees hailing from Luqa – the Minister’s hometown – or surrounding towns and villages which make up his constituency. None of the new appointees has ever had any experience running an airline.
The new directors include Luqa resident Francois Piccione (pictured with Schembri) who is a childhood friend of Minister Schembri since his years at student organisation Pulse. He is also currently an advisor at Schembri’s Ministry.
Ernest Azzopardi, a close collaborator of former Minister Karmenu Vella, was also put on the airline’s board together with James Camenzuli, a close associate of disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi who was involved in decisions on controversial projects such as the hospitals’ deal and Silvio Debono’s City Centre project in St George’s Bay.
Schembri’s Air Malta appointees, at a time when the airline needs the best minds and expertise to save it from ruin, also include Fgura resident Mark Farrugia – a former One ‘journalist’ and Joseph Muscat’s aide at Castille; Jason Vella, from Marsascala, currently the CEO of State entity Enemalta, and Kristina Camilleri Deguara.
The Shift is informed that Schembri has applied pressure on Prime Minister Robert Abela to appoint him as the new Finance Minister over his chief of staff Clyde Caruana.
The struggle for power also seems to be replicated at Air Malta where, following the sudden resignation of CEO Clifford Chetcuti, chairman Charles Mangion has assumed the role of Acting CEO. Yet Mangion is lobbying for the move to become a permanent one, according to internal sources.
Mangion, 68, has already got his nephew’s (the Minister’s) green light to take the position. Yet it seems that, so far, the prime minister is vetoing the move due to Mangion’s business connections and his close relations with disgraced former Tourism Minister Mizzi.
Only a few days ago, the government announced that it was seeking the green light from Brussels to provide State aid for the airline.