Alison Zerafa Civelli, the sister of the prime minister’s wife, Lydia Abela, was appointed on four different government boards over the last eight years, awarded mainly through the transport ministry under both former minister Joe Mizzi and current minister Ian Borg.
Zerafa Civelli, who has served as mayor of Bormla since she was elected on a Labour ticket in 2013, was immediately given a board member position with Transport Malta on 28 March 2013, just 17 days after Joseph Muscat’s administration was swept to power.
At the time, Transport Malta’s board was under the chairmanship of James Piscopo, the former CEO of the Lands Authority who was forced to step down from that position in December last year after being linked with bribery and corruption stemming from news reports about a police investigation into Keith Schembri’s claim that Piscopo had stashed away €600,000 at Fairbairn Private Bank.
Zerafa Civelli’s term as board member with the Transport Authority lasted until 25 April 2017.
On 23 May 2013, she was also appointed as one of the board members on what is now known as the Cottonera Foundation, chaired by Labour Party whip and MP Glenn Bedingfield. Zerafa Civelli’s appointment with the Cottonera Foundation is set to last up until 9 November 2023 at least, given that her latest reconfirmation in the role for the upcoming three years was made official last November.
Additionally, in October 2018, Zerafa Civelli was appointed deputy chairperson for the board of directors of Infrastructure Malta, the roadworks and infrastructure agency created by Transport Minister Ian Borg and headed by his right-hand man, CEO Frederick Azzopardi. She was appointed to this board in October 2018, and her term is set until October 2024.
Last September, Zerafa Civelli was appointed on the State-owned Enemed corporation’s board, a term that lasted a year. It is not yet known whether this appointment was also renewed.
Slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported on the Zerafa sisters, including Lydia Abela herself in 2013. In her commentary, Caruana Galizia had flagged their growing influence within the Party.
At the time, Abela, nee Zerafa, had just married Prime Minister Robert Abela, whose father George Abela had cemented his position as the President of Malta. Her husband was working as George Abela’s chauffeur, while her sister Darleen was the secretary of the Community Chest Fund, the President’s Foundation.
The Shift’s investigation into Zerafa Civelli’s affairs mirrors recent investigations published by this news portal which all highlight a clear pattern of individuals closely linked with the Labour Party receiving generous job postings and multiple salaries from a number of roles.
A recent example of this was an investigation into Marouska Debono, a lawyer who is closely connected with Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis through her work in the justice minister’s private practice.
Over the past eight years, Debono was given a total of eight different high-ranking positions on various boards, including being appointed as one of 21 justice commissioners within the ministry. She also received tens of thousands of euros in direct orders.
Debono’s eight different job positions mean the 37-year-old lawyer is, at least on paper, involved in decisions related to film reviews, employment, justice, workplace health and safety, policy work related to cases of physical violence and a small claims tribunal in the Housing Authority which was set up to adjudicate minor housing-related disputes.
Another example of political connections going a long way is Daniel Attard, a Labour Party acolyte who was recently elevated to the position of Deputy High Commissioner to the UK while also serving as the mayor of Mtarfa. When contacted by The Shift, Attard claimed that he had informed the council of his intent to resign, five months into his London-based appointment.