A lawyer with clear links to the Labour Party through her past employment with former Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia and her former marriage with disgraced Economy Minister Chris Cardona chairs four government boards and is a board member at the Lands Authority, an investigation by The Shift has revealed.
Lawyer Maria Cardona, whose name has appeared multiple times in investigations related to other similar cases of Labour party apparatchiks swelling government directorate boards, has been serving in the role of chairperson for longest in what is now known as the prison monitoring board, having done so since 13 September 2013.
Sources with first-hand information about prisoners’ relations with the prison monitoring board and who have spoken to The Shift have previously stated that many inside the prison were often hesitant about speaking to the board about their complaints due to the fear of reprimand from authorities, as well as a lack of action being taken to address their issues.
Besides the prison monitoring board, Cardona also chairs the immigration appeals board, the grant review board and the ad-hoc review board of Community Malta Agency, the agency tasked with processing citizenship applications. All the boards chaired by Cardona fall under the home affairs ministry.
She was appointed chairperson of the immigration appeals board in 2017, and is set to remain in that role until September 2023. As for the grant review board and the ad-hoc review board, she was appointed on 30 April of last year and 14 March of this year, respectively, and is set to remain in each role until next year.
Besides her roles on the four boards mentioned above, Cardona was also appointed board member of the Lands Authority in February 2017. Overall, the positions Cardona occupies means the lawyer is privy to decisions on complaints inside the prison, immigration appeals, government property and citizenship applications.
Cardona’s links with the Party were originally first highlighted on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s running commentary in 2013. At the time, Cardona was working with Emmanuel Mallia & Associates, a criminal defence practice with a large database of clients.
Picking up on a high potential of conflict of interest, Caruana Galizia pointed out that the same lawyers working in a firm defending people undergoing criminal proceedings were also in charge of the entire prison system through Mallia’s position as minister, as well as his decision to handpick Cardona to chair the monitoring board.
While Chris Cardona has exited the political scene following allegations of his involvement in a bank heist held in 2010, as well as separate allegations concerning a failed 2015 plot to assassinate Daphne Caruana Galizia, Mallia remains in a position of power, having recently been appointed as Malta’s high commissioner in the UK.
Cardona’s appointments are but one example of the way people close to the Labour Party’s highest echelons regularly get multiple appointments on government boards and other constituted bodies, as well as direct orders and other forms of lucrative contracts.
Other examples of The Shift’s investigations on the trend include the four board appointments awarded to Alison Zerafa Civelli, sister to the wife of prime minister Robert Abela, and the investigation that revealed that Wilson Mifsud, cousin to Labour party secretary William Lewis, has been awarded €723,000 in direct orders since Labour ascended to power.
Overall, such trends form part of Labour’s abuse of the power of incumbency to secure votes and popular support, including through pre-election dishing out of jobs. A separate investigation by The Shift revealed that employment within government ministries increased by 14.6% since last year, reaching a total of 34,000 employees.