Anthony Ellul, a close aide of Minister for Senior Citizens Michael Farrugia, was employed as Chief Operating Officer with James Caterers when crucial negotiations were being held with the government over the irregular St Vincent de Paul direct order that the NAO concluded was ‘illegal’.
James Caterers is one of the two companies involved in the €274 million deal, together with DB Group. The company employed Ellul soon after Minister Farrugia lost the senior citizens portfolio in June 2017. When the government was negotiating with the consortium, the minister’s aide and Labour Party official during elections, occupied a top position in the company.
When Prime Minister Robert Abela returned the Ministry to Farrugia last November, Ellul once again joined the minister and is now an advisor and person of trust, despite his record as a convicted fraudster.
Minister Farrugia, on whose watch the original contract was negotiated, said that his ministry is now ‘studying’ the NAO conclusions to see what action, if any, is to be taken.
So far, none of the politicians involved nor any of the residence staff involved in the decision, have carried any responsibility for the ‘illegal’ direct order.
Anthony Ellul’s track record
Last April, The Shift revealed how Anthony Ellul, better known as Tony, was made responsible for all the government elderly services, as Minister Farrugia’s advisor, setting up office at the Active Ageing department in Birkirkara.
The Minister’s person of trust, considered to be Farrugia’s chief political campaigner, was found guilty in 2003 of defrauding a bank through counterfeit banknotes. He was given a suspended sentence.
In its ruling, the court observed that Ellul had “deliberately and consciously provided the bank (HSBC) with a false name, false address and false ID card”.
The court had also observed that during a police search of Ellul’s car, more counterfeit dollar banknotes had been found.
Ten years later, as soon as Labour was returned to power, Ellul became Minister Farrugia’s private secretary.
During the same period, Farrugia also appointed Ellul chairman of a newly formed state company – Housing Maintenance and Embellishment Ltd – responsible for the upkeep of social housing property.
It was this company that before the 2017 elections gave a phantom job to Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galiza, on the orders of former OPM chief Keith Schembri.
When the Theuma scandal was revealed, Ellul was one of the first people to be interrogated by the police about the abuse of public funds. It is understood that Ellul told the police that he had ‘obeyed orders’ from Schembri when approving Theuma’s recruitment. The police have taken no action against him.
Ellul’s close collaboration with Minister Farrugia continued even when the latter was Interior Minister and Ellul was appointed as chairman of the Prison Board. Following media reports that Ellul’s appointment was illegal due to his criminal record, he resigned from the post.
Farrugia’s ministry, where Ellul remains employed as a person of trust, is one of the main clients for James Caterers and associated companies, which includes The Food Factory – a state of the art manufacturing plant built on land provided by Malta Industrial Parks – the state entity responsible for industrial estates.