Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, who failed to get re-elected in the 2017 general elections despite his close friendship with disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, is now doing his best to ensure a better result next time round by using his position to lure voters loyal to former Minister Chris Cardona.
The Justice Ministry has been dishing out lucrative direct orders to companies close to the former Economy Minister and to ‘influential’ canvassers of Zammit Lewis’ former rival on the Birkirkara district.
Zammit Lewis has put on his Ministry’s payroll the daughter of Cardona’s former Chief of Staff Mario Azzopardi, offering her a financial package of close to €50,000 even though she has only recently graduated and has limited experience.
Cheryl Azzopardi, who graduated in 2015, was recruited through a direct order last March for the “provision of legal services” within the Justice Ministry.
This may be seen as a strategic move by Zammit Lewis to garner votes in the district as Azzopardi, an old Labour hand in Birkirkara, is in a strong position of influence.
Mario Azzopardi, a former President of the Birkirkara Labour Committee, served as Chris Cardona’s right-hand man for many years, serving also as Cardona’s chief of staff when Minister.
He was the person who took the rap for a scandal involving hundreds of euro spent during an alcohol-ridden night in a hotel room in Dubai during a Ministerial visit where Cardona was present.
Azzopardi was originally the chief canvasser of former Labour stalwart Joe Debono Grech but he switched to Cardona after falling out with the former Labour Minister.
Zammit Lewis’s new legal consultant, Cheryl Azzopardi, is married to lawyer Mark Vassallo who is currently one of the defence lawyers of Keith Schembri.
Meanwhile, an analysis of the €782,000 in direct orders spent by the Justice Ministry during the first half of this year shows that more than 25% was given to the same company based in Birkirkara.
Signal 8 Security Ltd, which used to get a raft of direct orders from Chris Cardona’s Ministry, received €208,000 through eight different direct orders in six months. The company was commissioned directly by the Justice Ministry to provide security services for almost all its departments, including the Auberge D’Aragon, the Minister’s office.
The company is owned by Jovan Grech, a former police sergeant in the infamous Special Mobile Unit used by the Dom Mintoff regime for atrocities in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, some of Labour’s close collaborators have also been put on Zammit Lewis’s direct orders list.
These include Labour’s pollster Vince Marmara, former PN mayor turned Labour apologist Robert Musumeci, former Cardona spokesman Jonathan Attard and Alex Sciberras who has been given a €21,000 direct order through his new company, LRS Malta.
Sciberras was outed by The Shift as being the OPM’s secret advisor in the scandalous sale of prime land in St George’s Bay to Silvio Debono.
Kearon Bruno, a young canvasser of Minister Clayton Bartolo and engaged on a full time basis as his person of trust, was also given a €21,000 direct order by Minister Zammit Lewis for ‘consultancy services’.
Minister Bartolo will be facing Zammit Lewis in the next elections on the same district.
Allied Newspapers, publishers of The Times of Malta, also received a €7,500 direct order from Zammit Lewis for “advertising regarding constitutional and institutional reforms”.