Reconfirmed Cabinet minister Anton Refalo, who was revealed by The Shift in February to have been in possession of a protected artefact at his own home in Qala, has not been charged with any wrongdoing by either the police or the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, despite clearly being in breach of national heritage laws.
Any citizen or resident of Malta who is found to be in possession of national heritage is to be prosecuted for a criminal act, according to the Cultural Heritage Act. If found guilty, the crime is punishable with a fine “of not less than €2,000 and not exceeding €250,000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years”.
Although Refalo, a former chairman of Heritage Malta, admitted to having a protected 19th century British-era marker at his home, illegally, after pictures of the marker in the minister’s courtyard were published by The Shift, both Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa – who claims investigations are still underway – and Cultural Heritage Superintendent Kurt Farrugia, have so far failed to bring any charges against him.
Adding to the concerns about impunity, while Minister Refalo’s illegality was exposed before the general elections, Prime Minister Robert Abela not only failed to comment on the minister’s alleged theft but also went ahead and re-appointed him to Cabinet.
The police commissioner declined to answer questions on the matter. Gafa said the police are still investigating and refused to provide any details.
Kurt Farrugia, handpicked through a political appointment in 2020 as Superintendent of Cultural Heritage in a move that ousted his predecessor Joe Magro Conti, has ignored media questions.
When the minister’s misappropriation of the artefact was first exposed last February, Farrugia rushed to issue a statement confirming that the protected artefact was found in the Minister’s house and that “the proprietor was collaborating with the Superintendence”.
Asked repeatedly by The Shift to state whether he had filed a police report about the findings at the unnamed “proprietor’s” house, as he is obliged to do by law, and whether the protected marker was taken away from Refalo’s villa, Farrugia failed to answer. Several reminders sent to Kurt Farrugia over the past weeks have been ignored.
Refalo himself has yet to explain how he came into possession of the protected marker, and why he kept it at his home despite the rules clearly stating he was required to inform the authorities of its discovery.
The minister, who was ousted as Gozo Minister by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, was returned to Cabinet by Robert Abela soon after the latter took over Castille.