Updated to include response from the British High Commission
Diplomatic trouble is brewing between Malta and the UK as the British government has not yet given its consent for former minister Manuel Mallia to take over the reins of Malta’s High Commission in London.
Although Mallia resigned from parliament last July, following an agreement with Prime Minister Robert Abela to cede his seat in exchange for a posting in London for him and his family, the British government has so far not given the green light.
As a result, Mallia has been unable to take up his diplomatic post and is still living in Malta.
Senior diplomats at the Foreign Affairs Ministry told The Shift that the Maltese government “is getting concerned” over the delay by the UK authorities to issue the required agrément – the term used for the approval of a diplomatic representative by the State to which he or she is to be accredited.
“Normally this consent is just a formality. In Mallia’s case, since he was already a former minister and quite known, the consent should have been easier,” the sources said.
“However, it seems that some issues have cropped up along the way and the UK authorities have signalled to the Maltese Foreign Ministry that they need more time.”
Under normal circumstances, countries like the UK conduct due diligence on the nominated diplomat before granting their consent. In most cases, consent is issued. It is only on very rare occasions that it is delayed or even withheld.
Mallia – a controversial figure during his relatively short stint in politics – had prepared to take residence in London last summer after his nomination’s approval by parliament’s Public Appointments Committee in July. He had already enrolled his two children in private schools in London, The Shift is informed, but had to change his plans after the UK’s delayed consent.
Recent claims of involvement in criminal activity
While waiting for the UK’s go-ahead, Mallia is currently under increasing pressure on very serious claims made against him by Mark Camilleri – a former member of the Labour Party executive and president of the National Book Council.
Last month, Camilleri claimed in a book he published that Mallia was involved in oil smuggling and money laundering activities together with other criminals.
On Monday, Camilleri upped his ante, making even more specific claims against the former PN activist turned Labour minister.
According to Camilleri, the former Interior Minister “owned a ship along with another oil smuggler called it-Turu” which allegedly sold illegal oil to the Falzon Group.
Both claims have been denied by Mallia.
A chequered past
Mostly known as a top criminal lawyer due to his association with former President Guido De Marco’s legal firm and his past connections with his daughter, Giannella, Mallia was for a long time a political canvasser of the former PN’s deputy leader.
Although he always showed interest in contesting the elections for the PN, this never happened. It is an open secret that he was not highly regarded by Eddie Fenech Adami’s administration.
In 2013, Mallia crossed over to Labour and Joseph Muscat immediately made him his National Security Minister responsible for the police and the army.
Yet his stint as a prominent member of Muscat’s first Cabinet was short-lived as Mallia was ‘caught’ trying to cover up a shooting incident involving his own driver.
After refusing to step down on the order of the prime minister, Mallia was unceremoniously sacked. Yet he did not resign from parliament. Instead, he was given a raft of ‘government consultancies’ with a €56,000 part-time job as a legal consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister and another €30,000 as part-time chairman of the Health and Safety Authority together with a full-time personal assistant and driver.
Later, he was also reappointed Minister for Competitiveness and Digital Economy but failed to make it to parliament on his own steam in 2017 and only managed to re-enter the House through a casual election, losing his Cabinet seat in the process.
Apart from various political blunders during his time at the Interior Ministry, with a record four consecutive promotions in four months to Jeffrey Curmi to become brigadier of the Armed Forces, Mallia also hit the headlines as a result of his declaration of assets.
Soon after becoming minister, Mallia declared having some €500,000 in cash stashed at his home. While this self-admission was immediately frowned upon by money laundering watchdogs, Mallia never gave a full explanation for these funds.
According to his declarations, Mallia was by far the richest member of Cabinet, amassing some €2 million in assets and owning seven different properties in both Malta and Romania.
His declared annual income in the year before becoming minister (2013) stood at €227,000 including from the rent of various properties.
In response to the article, the British High Commission said, “the request for Dr Mallia’s appointment as Malta’s High Commissioner to the UK is being processed in the normal way”.