A controversial international football player who was fined in 2017 for failing to properly store firearms has been selected by Education Minister Justyne Caruana as one her closest aides, even though she denied it in reply to questions by The Shift.
Daniel Bogdanovic, 40, is currently the team manager of Ghajnielem FC, according to his LinkedIn account. The former international footballer is also regularly seen accompanying Caruana on both formal and informal duties, including visits to schools.
The Shift asked the Education Minister to explain Bogdanovic’s role and whether he had passed a security screening before being appointed. Surprisingly, the Minister’s spokesman denied the footballer formed part of Caruana’s private secretariat.
He insisted “Bogdanovic is not a secretariat member” and added that the former footballer was and still is “a Community Scheme Worker employee (sic) and any vetting/screening was carried out by his employer”.
The Ministry’s denial contradicts official information. According to the government’s own internal IT system, Bogdanovic is listed as working as a ‘secretariat officer’ within the private secretariat of Minister Caruana at her office in Floriana. The Minister also failed to explain her personal relationship with the player.
Caruana was Gozo Minister until January last year when she was forced to resign as Gozo Minister after it was revealed that her husband, former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta who was involved in the investigation into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death, had been on several trips with Yorgen Fenech who is accused of commissioning her murder. It is understood that the couple’s relationship soured after that.
The Minister’s reply also raises questions on the Community Work Scheme – a controversial government scheme supposedly for the long term unemployed that is administered by a foundation owned by the General Workers Union.
It is unclear how Bogdanovic, a professional player for years, ended up on the government’s payroll through this scheme when he was already employed.
Sources said it was during Gozo Minister Anton Refalo’s time that the former Xewkija Tigers footballer was put on the scheme’s books.
The government scheme is being used abusively so a large number of ‘unemployed’ are put on the government’s payroll.
Bogdanovic hit the headlines in 2017 when Magistrate Joe Mifsud – himself a former government consultant at the Gozo Ministry – fined the former footballer €1,000 and suspended his firearms licence for a year, for misuse of telecommunications equipment and for failing to properly store a handgun and a rifle as required by law.
At the same time, Bogdanovic was acquitted over charges of threatening his estranged wife, even though he had admitted sending her a message that he would ‘bury her’. Magistrate Mifsud concluded that not enough evidence had been brought by the police over this charge.
This case had been accompanied by another controversy. While under arrest in 2016, Bogdanovic had been released just in time to play an important football match with his team at the time, Xewkija Tigers.
An inquiry over the incident, led by retired Brigadier Carmel Vassallo, had found that Bogdanovic’s bail was not due to outside interference, yet noted that the police had shown a lack of sensitivity.