Velislava Hillman, the wife of former Allied Newspapers Managing Director Adrian Hillman, was appointed director of an academic institute at the beleaguered American University of Malta (AUM) while her husband represented the Office of the Prime Minister on the same university’s board of Trustees.
AUM sources told The Shift that Hillman’s wife, who obtained a PhD in Media and Communications in 2018, was recruited as a senior researcher and appointed director at the university’s only institute – the Data, Media and Society Centre – an idea promoted to the AUM board by her husband.
It is unclear whether Hillman, who is currently under criminal investigation over money laundering claims, is still on the AUM’s Board of Trustees. The Office of the Prime Minister again declined to answer questions sent on the matter, as did the AUM’s Provost.
“Ethics do not seem to matter much for the AUM,” a source at the university told The Shift.
When Hillman was still at the helm of Allied Newspapers, he had also involved his wife who got her own publication.
Adrian Hillman, who in 2016 resigned from his post of Managing Director at Malta’s longest established media organisation following claims of graft and money laundering involving Keith Schembri, was soon after nominated by then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to represent the OPM on the AUM’s board of trustees. He was also given a lucrative government consultancy contract at the Malta Gaming Authority to ‘manage its reputation’.
His nomination on the AUM’s Board was kept secret and only revealed years later.
In 2019, following parliamentary questions by former PN leader Simon Busuttil, Muscat said that Hillman had been appointed as the sole Malta government representative on the AUM’s board of trustees and his appointment was for three years. Muscat did not say when Hillman was appointed or when his term ends. He also failed to explain Hillman’s connections with the Prime Minister’s Office.
Hillman’s appointment at the AUM was made despite public allegations that he had received some €650,000 in kickbacks from Keith Schembri, first revealed by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Both Hillman and Schembri have denied the claims, saying the payments to offshore accounts owned by the former chief of Allied Newspapers were for “editorial services”.
Earlier this week The Shift revealed that a magisterial inquiry into the alleged kickbacks has been concluded and submitted to the Attorney General. They are expected to be charged with money laundering.