Tista’ taqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti hawn
Following an eight-month inquiry by the government’s Cooperatives Board, Għaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd Ltd, a cooperative set up by fishermen, is now set for a change of guard in its executive committee.
In April, The Shift reported that Għaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd Ltd (GħKS), led by individuals who have been arraigned in court over charges of smuggling fuel and ammunition, was under investigation over its failure to submit audited accounts for the last seven years.
GħKS was originally set up to directly negotiate the sale of fishermen’s catches and export their products. The Cooperatives Board is the official government entity serving as regulator and administrator for all cooperatives registered in Malta.
In January, the Cooperatives Board set up an inquiry tasked with looking into GħKS’ finances and ensuring that the cooperative “conforms to all its legal obligations”.
The inquiry was concluded this month, with the Cooperatives Board confirming that it has “written to all the cooperative’s members to set up a meeting with them and establish whether there is any interest in the cooperative continuing to operate, preferably with a new executive committee”.
GħKS’ secretary is alleged fuel smuggler Paul Piscopo, while its vice president, Michael Carabott, was served with a year-long suspended sentence in January 2017 after he was arrested with three Egyptians who were found in possession of 50,000 rounds of ammunition, according to court documents.
The cooperative’s president, Joseph Demicoli, has access to the Labour Party’s top brass, including disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, his disgraced former chief of staff Keith Schembri, and even current Prime Minister Robert Abela, among others.
The auditors who contributed to the annual report documenting GħKS’ most recent accounts had already sounded the alarm, stating that “the financial declarations do not give a just and truthful account of the balance sheet” of the cooperative.
Further investigation of the available data had shown that the net worth of the cooperative stood at -€108,326 (in the red), which essentially means that even if it does manage to recover the debt it is owed, there would not be any liquidity with which to pay creditors.
When the spokesperson for the Cooperatives Board was confronted with this information and asked to clarify why it was calling for a change of guard at GħKS’ executive committee, the spokesperson only said, “The Board feels that a change in the executive committee would be beneficial so the cooperative would have better leadership and that there would be wider involvement from its members.”
“If there is no interest from the cooperative’s members to take the necessary steps to address the problems and the challenges that the cooperative faces, the Board must then take its own decisions,” the spokesperson added.
According to Article 13 of Chapter 442 of the Laws of Malta, the Cooperative Societies Act, the Cooperatives Board has the right to open its own inquiry into a cooperative’s affairs if there are reasonable and sufficient grounds to do so.
Article 14 adds that should the board’s findings outline shortcomings within the cooperative, it can either issue an order to rectify those shortcomings or dissolve the entity entirely. Should the Cooperatives Board and the members of the cooperative fail to find a solution to GħKS’ crumbling financial infrastructure, the cooperative will likely be dissolved.