Wall of silence from government on outcome of inquiry into former fisheries director

No responses from attorney general, fisheries department, parliamentary secretary, or former director herself about partial suspension after corruption scandal

 

The government, all the way up to Cabinet, has gone completely silent about the outcome of a magisterial inquiry as well as the employment status of the former director-general who was embroiled in a corruption scandal in 2019.

Andreina Fenech Farrugia is the former director-general of the fisheries department who was caught red-handed soliciting bribes from an alleged tuna laundering ring worth up to €25 million. She was immediately suspended from her position and was also the subject of a magisterial inquiry into the allegations.

Over a week ago The Shift began sending questions about both the suspension and the magisterial inquiry to the relevant branches of government, including the office of the attorney general, the fisheries department, and the office of the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries Alicia Bugeja Said.

Despite multiple emails and calls, no answers have been provided. Attempts to reach Fenech Farrugia directly also proved unsuccessful.

Bugeja Said’s campaign expense declaration showed that she had received electoral donations from, among other major players in the fishing sector, a company that has never filed audited accounts since it was first set up: AJD Tuna Ltd, owned by brothers Charles and Anthony Azzopardi.

While the parliamentary secretary did not respond to questions about whether Fenech Farrugia is still suspended from her executive role as director-general, last May she did tell reporters that she believes that there was “no conflict of interest” when questioned about the fact that the same people both her and Fenech Farrugia were supposed to be regulating were also donors to her campaign.

Even though three years have passed since the scandal was first exposed by Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, the office of the attorney general has not even acknowledged questions about the status or outcome of a magisterial inquiry into Fenech Farrugia’s links with the tuna laundering ring.

The only recent action taken by the government on the fishing industry’s well-documented issues, was, however, not related to Fenech Farrugia or the scandal she was involved in.

In January, the government started an investigation into an insolvent fishermen’s cooperative that had failed to file audited accounts for years, although even that has been challenged and criticised by former executive members of that same cooperative.

The cooperative, Għaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd Ltd, was run by an executive committee largely controlled by four individuals – Joseph Demicoli (president), Paul Piscopo (secretary), Michael Carabott (vice-president) and Ernest Galea (treasurer).

Piscopo’s vessel was previously caught ferrying contraband diesel, while Carabott was caught smuggling ammunition that was allegedly destined for Libya. According to laws regulating cooperatives, Galea is technically forbidden from being on the committee since the law forbids fish vendors from doing so.

The president of the organisation has close ties with the Labour Party.

While the organisation’s leadership is supposedly set to be replaced following the conclusion of the government’s investigation, a former secretary of the same cooperative’s committee told The Shift that the government had generally failed to protect individual fishermen from big businesses like Azzopardi Fisheries, who he says have pushed small-timers out and have completely taken over the industry.

                           
                               
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Crooks everywhere
Crooks everywhere
1 month ago

These are the same that have infested Malta’s beaches and waters with the slime coming from their “fish farms”.

From North to South. They corrupt lot getting big cash with impunity and polluting the country, its goverment and administration and its natural resources.

Raymond Vella
Raymond Vella
1 month ago

“Evil people always support each other; that is their chief strength.” ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

If you notice each corrupt man or woman ,they build their own little empire at the expense of the honest citizen.

Mick
Mick
1 month ago

A leech of the highest order, I fully expect a new job and promotion in the very near future as a reward for her Omerta and support of the Mafia.

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
1 month ago

I understand that besides this impunity – indeed not even a due process – she would have been on leave at full pay for these three years. Then when everything dies down, re-instatement as if nothing happened. New standard for the blue-eyed boys (and girls)

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul Bonello
MA Caruana
MA Caruana
1 month ago

Everything fits well into the picture. She ruled with an air of nonchalance and ran roughshod on helpless vulnerable fishermen – strong with the weak and weak with the strong. Individual fishermen were sometimes made to pay for her blunders. On her watch the fishing community lost thousands of kilos of unutilised tuna quotas. Too many wrongs have been ignored. No wonder the traditional fishing industry keeps spiralling down.

Last edited 1 month ago by MA Caruana

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