Transport Minister Ian Borg has refused to comment on allegations of suspicious illegal activity carried out by his closest aide and person of trust, Jesmond Zammit, and is stonewalling questions about his chief canvasser and government-paid advisor.
The police have also declined to confirm reports that on 26 March members of the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) detained the Minister’s aide in a field in Ghar Lapsi, Siggiewi on suspicions of illegal trapping. The EPU was acting on a report from environmental organisation CABS.
Zammit, currently on a generous €67,000 a year contract as Borg’s person of trust, has himself failed to either confirm or deny his involvement in the incident and ignored direct questions sent by The Shift on 22 May, despite the obvious implications that such a concerted wall of silence and the absence of a clear denial would suggest.
The police were asked to corroborate this report and state whether Zammit has been charged in court. They instead cited a law they say prohibits them from sharing such information.
This runs contrary to police practice on other occasions when they have provided details or leaked information to selected journalists to announce pending arraignments, ongoing investigations and other law-enforcement action. In addition, it means that there has been no denial or clarification of any kind from any of the concerned parties.
Pictures of the incident, sent to The Shift, show police officers approaching a man, allegedly Zammit by sources familiar with him, as he was arranging illicit clap nets used for the forbidden activity. The nets were confiscated, and the man was interviewed by the police.
Trapping in spring is banned across the EU. Breaches of the law are punishable by hefty fines and the possibility of the withdrawal of connected licences.
Sources close to Zammit, who apart from being Minister Borg’s right-hand man is also a football coach, describe him as an avid bird trapper.
Zammit’s previous interactions with the police
Zammit, currently the coach of Gudja FC, is known to have good contacts within the police force.
In 2016, an inquiry into how a footballer came to be released from police custody in Gozo after possible political pressure, revealed that Zammit – then chief of staff in Ian Borg’s secretariat and coach of Xewkija Tigers football team – had called a senior police officer over the detention of one of his players.
The inquiry – which also involved player Daniel Bogdanovic, currently in the news over his close relationship with Education Minister Justyne Caruana – established that it was Zammit who had called Police Assistant Commissioner Carmelo Magro about the arrest of the footballer.
While Minister Borg’s closest aide denied that he had pressured the police to release his player in time for a crucial match, he did admit that he had spoken to Magro, in his capacity as the player’s coach, to ‘understand’ what was going on.
The footballer was indeed released from custody a few hours after the call, just in time for coach Zammit to include him in his squad for the critical game.
The minister’s close friend
The aide-cum-coach, from Dingli but residing in Zebbug, has been an intimate friend of Minister Borg’s for a long time and is considered his chief political canvasser.
Following the last general election, Zammit’s daughter Adreana publicly congratulated “Ian and daddy” for their “amazing result” at the general elections on social media.
Adreana has also had her fair share of publicity in recent weeks, as The Times of Malta revealed she was awarded a lucrative direct order by Transport Malta to work as a junior lawyer – before she’d even graduated.
The Shift then showed that just eight months later, her contract was upgraded to a three-year legal consultancy contract, paying her close to €80,000 a year.
While the contract was rescinded on orders of the prime minister as the story hit the press, Minister Borg declared that he had had nothing to do with the extraordinary deal given to his advisor’s 22-year-old daughter.
Transport Malta falls directly under the political remit of Minister Borg.