A small group of well-connected lawyers, including Simon Schembri, previously in business with Alfred Mifsud, Ryan Pace, formerly part of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s firm, and Cory Greenland, an ex General Workers Union official, have shared some €300,000 in legal consultancy fees paid by taxpayers through the Gozo Ministry in less than three years.
According to new information submitted in Parliament, Simon Schembri – now a partner at major law firm Ganado & Associates and his wife, Georgine Grech – residing in Gozo, has pocketed most of that in the form of consultancy fees dished out by state ferry company Gozo Channel.
Simon Schembri, a former managing director of the now defunct Crystal Finance Ltd and Allcare Insurance, owned by his father Eric and former Labour-linked Central Bank deputy governor Alfred Mifsud, has been acting as the chief legal consultant of Gozo Channel for several years.
In 2019 alone, through the services afforded by Schembri, Ganado & Associates received a total of €131,662 in unspecified legal fees.
In the following years, the same firm charged Gozo Channel – currently in a desperate financial state – another €41,000 for 2020 and almost €13,000 so far for this year.
Gozo Channel through its operations arm, Gozo Channel Operations Ltd, is also making use of Schembri’s wife, lawyer Georgine Grech who, up to a few years ago, served as the state company’s board secretary.
Through her law firm, Grech and Grech Associates, based in Victoria, the former board secretary was paid almost €35,000 in legal fees between 2019 and 2021.
According to details given in a parliamentary question by PN MP Chris Said, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri did not specify the nature of the legal opinions sought from the Gozo Channel’s former board secretary.
Two other lawyers, which the Gozo Ministry has been engaging recently, are directly related to the governing Labour Party.
Earlier this year, the Gozo Ministry directly sought the legal advice of Ryan Pace, a young lawyer still in his 20’s who, up to last year, formed part of the private legal firm of Prime Minister Robert Abela.
Pace was paid €6,000 in legal fees this year from the Gozo Ministry.
Only last April, Pace was appointed by the Prime Minister as the new Chairman of the Malta Gaming Authority, although the lawyer had no experience whatsoever in the sector.
Pace, who graduated in 2018, has suddenly become a favourite with state-controlled companies. Since Robert Abela became Prime Minister, his former staff member has been appointed to serve as board secretary of the Mediterranean Offshore Bunkering Ltd (MOBC) and Engineering Resources Ltd, which employs former staff of Enemalta.
He was also made Data Protection Supervisor at the Malta Tourism Authority and member of the board of directors of ARMS Ltd, Gozo Heliport Ltd and Malta Government Investments Ltd.
The tabled information also shows that Cory Greenland – a former official of the General Workers Union and a Labour Party activist was ‘chosen’ by the newly established Gozo Regional Development Authority as their lawyer.
So far, he has charged the ‘independent’ authority some €5000 for his services.
The authority is fully funded through state coffers.