Minister Carmelo Abela is so dishonourable that he disgraces even the Labour government. He knew that the Ghana Honorary Consul he proposed for promotion to High Commissioner had business links with a fugitive wanted for a million euro fraud. Yet the minister didn’t tell parliament’s standing committee on public appointments.
Even when provided with an email from the acting police commissioner that the fugitive, Aaron Galea, was a wanted man with warrants issued against him, Abela failed to inform the police.
A complaint was made about Abela’s alleged breach of the code of ethics’ Article 4.6. Abela twice denied any knowledge of the links between the two men – on 24 March 2020 and 7 April 2021.
When an investigation was launched on Abela for misleading parliament, his lawyer, ex-MP Luciano Busuttil, demanded the “investigation must stop immediately”. Minister Abela had too much to hide. The obvious response of the honest accused of impropriety is to welcome a thorough transparent investigation. Abela did the opposite.
He pulled all the stops to block the investigation. His first excuse was that since the Standards Act came into effect on 30 October 2018, two weeks after parliament’s standing committee considered the High Commissioner’s appointment, the minister could not be investigated.
Yet the High Commissioner’s post came into effect when Ghana agreed to the appointment – 27 February 2019. Ambassador Fiona Formosa confirmed that the appointment becomes definitive when the host country accepts him.
Abela’s next excuse was that since the complainant had known about the facts for more than 30 days, as stipulated in the law, the investigation should stop. Not because there was no truth in the complaint.
Abela’s trick worked. The report concluded that “time limits did not allow consideration of the complainant’s charge that Abela misled parliament”.
Yet newspaper headlines announced: ‘Abela cleared in ethics probe’. He was not. He wasn’t even investigated. The charge of misleading parliament wasn’t even considered.
The minister was asked why he did not inform the parliamentary committee about the High Commissioner’s links with the fugitive? Abela brazenly denied knowing of the “so-called facts”.
“No information ever reached me to indicate that the proposed High Commissioner was in business with a person subject to criminal proceedings,” he claimed.
None of that was true. In July 2017, former President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was visiting Ghana. The Honorary Consul sought to involve the fraudster, his friend, in the delegation’s activities. Anton Buttigieg, Trade Malta CEO went to Ghana to organise the President’s visit.
He met the Consul who introduced the fugitive, Aaron Galea, as his business partner. Buttigieg ran an internet search and found that Galea was on the run after a 1 million euro scam through an unlicensed investment scheme. Buttigieg immediately informed the minister’s permanent secretary who copied the minister’s chief of staff and private secretary.
The following day, 19 July 2017, Buttigieg met Minister Abela personally and told him about Aaron Galea and the Honorary Consul. The minister did nothing.
Minister Abela saw the email of 18th July 2017 alerting him of the association between the two because he participated in the trail, inquiring about Galea: “Does he live there?”. That email even provided the minister with a link to an article indicating that Galea was on the run.
The investigation concluded: “The minister did not seem credible in his claim that he was unaware” of the links between the two.
When challenged with the trail of emails, Abela’s excuses were as risible as they were deceitful: “I was not the original recipient of the email”, “my attention was focused only on the presence of the persona non grata”, “this was just a few days before the delegation left Malta”.
The most damning was: “I no longer recalled the detailed content of that email”.
The minister asserts that despite being emailed and told that the Consul had business links with a fugitive, he forgot. His proposed High Commissioner was duty bound to alert Maltese authorities to the presence of the fugitive and to facilitate repatriating him to face justice. But the Consul was an employee in the fugitive’s company.
The fugitive even had an email address with the Consul’s own company, Galea Investments Ltd, which the Consul failed to mention to the parliamentary committee. The Consul admitted, “I won’t deny he (Galea) did assist me on a number of occasions”. He even discussed the fugitive directly with the minister.
But the minister ‘forgot’. Just as he forgot testifying about the 2010 HSBC heist. What else did he forget?
Why did Abela not tell the parliamentary committee what he knew about the Consul? Abela’s excuses were: nominations are vetted by the security services; the parliamentary committee is at liberty to carry out its own scrutiny; the committee unanimously approved the nomination.
Of course they did – because Abela didn’t tell them about his links to the fugitive. Abela absolved himself of his responsibility to propose only men of integrity and competence to represent the nation. But also from the responsibility at least not to propose those with business links to fraudsters. Or even to to inform the committee, or the police.
Minister Abela even attacked the complainant’s credibility, accusing him of having a conflict of interest referring to the complainant’s company (Hands on Systems).
Minister Abela brings his office and his government into utter disrepute. Not only did he knowingly propose a High Commissioner with business links to a fugitive, he concealed that information from the parliamentary committee, denied knowledge of the facts despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, aggressively attempted to stop the investigation, and failed to inform the police that the man they wanted for fraud was living in Ghana with close ties to his High Commissioner and was almost part of the President of Malta’s Ghana delegation activities.
The minister’s actions should spell the end of him. He is utterly unfit for office. But since when has that ended any Labour minister’s career?