MFSA scandal: Cuschieri and Licari on 38 business trips abroad costing €0.5 million

Embattled MFSA chief Joseph Cuschieri and the Authority’s General Counsel member Edwina Licari, currently “self-suspended” from their roles, travelled together at least 38 times over the last six years, according to new information tabled in Parliament.

The necessary authorisations for all this travel, which cost taxpayers some €0.5 million over six years, used to be made by Cuschieri himself, despite both the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the MFSA had different departments responsible for approving such costs.

Cuschieri and Licari, who started working together in 2013, soon after Cuschieri was hand-picked by the OPM to head the gaming regulator (MGA), spent weeks abroad attending conferences, meetings and other undisclosed business, flying thousands of miles across the globe from Australia to the Philippines, Macau, New York and Las Vegas.

Four nights in New York in 2015 cost taxpayers €17,868, while a week in Peru in the same year cost €26,959. Five nights in London the following year cost €24,107, and they also went to the Philippines and Australia in the same year on two separate trips for a total cost of almost €20,000. They also visited most of the main European cities together.  On some trips, they were accompanied by others.

Although they made their first Las Vegas trip together in 2014 costing taxpayers €7,716, it was a visit to ‘Sin City’ in 2018 which has landed them in hot water and exposed a clear breach of ethics at both the MFSA and the MGA.

Cuschieri admitted that in May 2018, just a month after he was given his new €150,000 a year job to head the MFSA, he had travelled on a private visit to Las Vegas on a trip financed by Yorgen Fenech who now stands accused of commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Cuschieri said he did not breach any ethics as he had just left the MGA and was giving ‘free’ private consultancy to Fenech, which is prohibited according to MFSA rules.

Although he did not disclose who travelled to the US with him, The Shift had revealed that it was Licari, at the time the General Counsel of the MGA. As an official of the MGA,  Licari was prohibited from receiving any gifts from businessmen, particularly the owner of a casino licenced by the same MGA.

The Shift had also revealed that a few weeks after this ‘private’ trip, Licari had resigned her post at the MGA to take an identical post at the MFSA where Cuschieri had become CEO.

Licari’s interview for a €100,000 job at the financial services regulator followed just one short interview, conducted by Cuschieri himself accompanied by the chairman of the MFSA Prof John Mamo.

The information tabled in parliament at the request of PN MP Ryan Callus shows that Licari was the only official accompanying Cuschieri on his trips overseas on a number of occasions.

A breakdown of the costs for flights, hotels and hospitality shows that Cuschieri was quite extravagant when travelling on business matters.

For two nights in Madrid in 2015, the MGA forked out almost €3,000 a night, while five days in the exotic Philippines in 2016 set taxpayers back almost €13,000. During the same year, a night in Rome and another in Milan cost taxpayers a staggering €6,000 in flights, accommodation and hospitality.

Following press revelations about the close ties between the two highest officials of the MFSA and Fenech, the two “self-suspended” themselves until an investigation is carried out. The MFSA refused to answer questions about whether the two were still receiving their salary.

The MFSA governors requested a two-member ‘independent’ inquiry board, headed by former Chief Justice Joe Azzopardi, to investigate the conduct of both Cuschieri and Licari and decide their future.

MFSA rules make it clear that employees, particularly senior members of the organisation, cannot accept any gifts which “give the impression that they can be influenced by considerations of personal gain in the performance and functions of their duties”.

Revelations about Cuschieri and Licari came at a crucial time when Malta is trying to avoid being greylisted by Moneyval, which would have severe repercussions on the financial services industry.

Download the information tabled in parliament: 17100 papers laid, 17098 papers laid, 17097 papers laid,  17095 papers laid

                           
                               
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Gee Mike
Gee Mike
17 days ago

It feels like reading about Ben Dover and Phillip Mc Cavity. Perhaps we should check if the MFSA bought lube in significant quantities.
It would be a farce had it not been so sad.

Is this how our taxes are being spent?

Sciberras
Sciberras
17 days ago
Reply to  Gee Mike

Then they are tight fisted with all the rest. Shameful

MCamilleri
MCamilleri
17 days ago

The Board can fire them, they don’t need an investigation by an inquiry board. X’kull wahda… lets bill the tax payers again!!!!!

MR ADRIAN GOUDER
MR ADRIAN GOUDER
17 days ago
Reply to  MCamilleri

This is not about firing such people but about disciplining them and making them pay back the money they stole. €3000 per night??? Downright criminal. That is blatent theft.

Joe Zammit
Joe Zammit
17 days ago

Nookies!

Yaik
Yaik
17 days ago

In the meantime MFSA and FIAU making it difficult for the small practitioners to operate with the excuse to ‘raise the bar’.

Last edited 17 days ago by Yaik
gikku
gikku
17 days ago

Some years back had to go to Brussels, for commission meetings, on a 220 euro per day budget, out of which I had to pay the hotel food and transport, Usually this meant staying in a 3rd class hotel and maybe having one lunch and one dinner at a side road restaurant. Often times I had to spend from my own money.

Mariella Carbonaro
Mariella Carbonaro
17 days ago

And then MFSA staff, every December, are reminded that they should not accept a shoddy 10 euro bottle of wine, lest it influences their decisions. They are actually made to return such gifts back.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
17 days ago

Sangisugi both of them. They suck our blood.

Matthew
Matthew
17 days ago

Looks as if there was more to this than a professional working relationship

Iain Morrison
Iain Morrison
17 days ago
Reply to  Matthew

I am sure they were discussing internal matters….

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
17 days ago
Reply to  Matthew

Intimate relationship ???

Carmel Spiteri
Carmel Spiteri
17 days ago
Reply to  Henry s Pace

any doubt

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
17 days ago

Thank goodness they did’nt do Tel Aviv. If they had, they’d have Pharisees Owen and Glenn calling a press conference.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
17 days ago

cuschieri ; you (licari) and me go together around the world !

Edgar gatt
17 days ago

And to think that we are paying through our taxes for a couple galavanting round the world and spending half a million euro having a hell of a time. Ok this poor couple had to work their guts out

Mario borg
Mario borg
17 days ago

Something smells…..did the two have separate rooms.
What did Malta benefit from their 38 business trips.
This would be a necessary information to at least prove that aur taxes were not so lavishly used for nothing. Thus us what parliamentarians and Shift news should as in.our name

carlo
carlo
16 days ago
Reply to  Mario borg

This would be a necessary information to at least prove that our taxes were not so lavishly used for nothing.

No my good friend – our taxes are used biex jthanzru l-people of NO trust u shabhom il-ministri tal-muvument korrot. Saru kollha miljunarji min fuq dahar il-haddiem. HALLELIN

Alfref Vaa
17 days ago

What a good life business traveling are.. money no problema.

Alfred
17 days ago

Who going to pay for the ride?.

Sciberras
Sciberras
17 days ago

Spending out of Malta’s coffers comes easy that’s nice

Aggie
Aggie
17 days ago

Disgusting behaviour by Maltese once again, who are supposed to be in positions of trust and responsibility. Keep it up Malta and all your top jobs will be taken by foreigner’s who cant be bought or corrupted

Double standards
Double standards
17 days ago

Niftakar zmien meta €400 arlogg kien skandlu kbir….ara vera l-ispizjar milli jkollu jtik.

It is I, Leclerc
It is I, Leclerc
17 days ago

So this is what Joseph Cuschieri means by “raising the bar”. He must have raised it many times during his travels around the world. All in the name of our financial services industry of course.

George
George
17 days ago

The MFSA’s BMW plate num HQZ 042 of Joe” blood sucker’Cuchciri is still parked outside his or better his poor wife’s residence.

mick
mick
15 days ago
Reply to  George

Won’t be long before she throws a bucket of paint over it I imagine.

Zhuhsi
Zhuhsi
17 days ago

The Government must have standard travel and expense guidelines for all its departments AND all public or related institutions – including the MFSA, the MGA and the Central Bank. These should provide decent expenditure limits for (i). airline tickets – standard economy class for all travel within the EU or within 4 hours flight time, longer distances should be business class. This irrespective of grade or title; (ii). standard hotel allowances based on widely available OECD classifications – 4 star level hotels; (iii), standard per diems for meals. This is the way most corporations run their corporate travel.

Saviour
Saviour
17 days ago

I used to work for a company, and I used to be sent for work overseas , and every time on my return I had to return my expense sheet, and a detailed report of my visit overseas . Did this couple do a report ? Scappatelli Galore ?

MJ Pavey
MJ Pavey
16 days ago

Those familiar with the UK satirical “Private Eye” magazine will immediately recognise this sorry tale as one involving “discussions of a Ugandan nature”, a euphemism for (cough) shenanigans, whilst on supposedly official duties…..

carlo
carlo
16 days ago

wicchom jixhedilhom x’inhuma. Sahme on you both – rotten fruit of the muvument korrott. ISTHU.

Martin Numan
Martin Numan
16 days ago

If MONEYVAL don’t grey-list Malta, the world can rightly ask just what the hell you have to do to be grey-listed!

Mar Borg
Mar Borg
13 days ago

When I was a Civil Servant (in real terms) for some time I used to work on preparing flights, hotél reservations and the per diem money for officers travelling abroad on duty. Should an officer been offered a lunch or snacks during his/her meeting we were bound to deduct such allocation from the per diem. At some time, I used to travel on duty abroad as well, we had to produce receipts for all recorded expenses together with a detailed report about our duties.
I run my own business and we have staff travelling on duty abroad as well: all expenses audited and productivity reports provided.

It seems that civil service and relevant authorities really raised the bar, as long as it’s ‘our’ hard earned money which they are ‘sucking’ on.

carlo
carlo
3 days ago

wicchom jxdilhom x’inhuma.

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