Libel proceedings against The Shift initiated in 2020 by the owner of a cleaning firm were thrown out by the Court as X-Clean Ltd could not provide any evidence to substantiate its claims against this news portal.
In its decision, the Court presided by Magistrate Rachel Montebello, decided to end the procedures against The Shift as neither the businessman who initiated the case, Denis Xuereb from Naxxar, nor his legal representative, former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit, have faced The Shift in court to try to prove that an article about a government tendering process was in any way libellous.
The lawyer representing The Shift, Andrew Borg Cardona, filed a plea arguing the case should be thrown out due to a complete lack of interest by the plaintiffs. Magistrate Montebello agreed and decided to dismiss the case according to the provisions of the law.
Denis Xuereb, known for his proximity to former Active Aging Minister Michael Farrugia, had filed a libel case against The Shift over an article published in April 2020 titled ‘Rogue company awarded 8.7 million tender’.
The article reported that Xuereb’s company had significant pending issues with the tax authorities when they bid for a three-year cleaning contract at St Vincent de Paul, yet the government’s Contracts Department still decided to award it the tender.
The Shift also reported a challenge by a rival company, SaniClean JV, which had filed an appeal, claiming irregularities.
It later resulted that while the Public Contracts Review Board had agreed with the appellant and decided to cancel the award to X-Clean, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision and confirmed the award to Xuereb’s company.
During the court proceedings, it resulted that although it was true that the Naxxar businessmen had a pending tax bill with the authorities, he had managed to clear all his debt through an arrangement with the Commissioner of Revenue just in time to be able to win the multi-million-euro government contract.
Investigations by The Shift had shown that just a few days after its incorporation in April 2015, X-Clean Ltd was immediately handed a temporary six-month direct order for all the cleaning services at SVDP when Michael Farrugia was politically responsible for the decision.
Valued at €100,000 a month, the ‘temporary’ direct order was renewed every six months for the following five years, with X-Clean getting more than €10 million in payments through this repeat direct order.
In 2018, following various media reports exposing this blatant abuse, the government finally decided to issue a tender.
At the end of the contested procurement process, the three-year contract worth €8.7 million was awarded to X-Clean.
Despite his re-election in March, Michael Farrugia was not given a ministerial role by Prime Minister Robert Abela.