The Malta Gaming Authority last year spent more than €411,000 on marketing and public relations, including a €25,000 bill paid to the Corinthia Group for hosting a two-hour party at its London hotel.
According to the information presented in Parliament, the MGA made out most of its PR effort at the annual ICE exhibition held in London last April for international gaming operators.
Since the exhibition had not been held in 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid pandemic, the MGA pulled out all the stops with its spending and hosted a party at the 5-star Corinthia London, where it spent around €25,000 on food and drink.
The data published shows that apart from some €200,000 spent for a stand at the London exhibition, commissioned from Casapinta Design Group, the MGA also paid some €9,000 by direct order to Redorange Image Consultants Ltd – a Naxxar-based public relations company owned by Daniel Abela, the nephew of former Labour Party deputy leader Louis Grech.
Over 2022 the MGA also spent €50,000 on another stand at the local Sigma conference held at the Corinthia’s MFCC at Ta’ Qali over two days.
Following dismal results by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) during the past years, which led to Malta’s international greylisting, the Unit also went on a reputational damage control drive in 2021.
In the year leading up to the general elections, the FIAU gave Saviour Balzan’s Media Today a direct order of almost €23,000 for ‘positive content’ on his newspapers, while The Times of Malta, which has a much higher circulation, was paid €14,000, also by direct order.
A year later, in 2022, the FIAU spent €45,000 on PR, which included another two direct orders for Redorange.
The Malta Financial Services Authority, meanwhile, stemmed the waste of public funds on marketing and PR that marked the leadership of disgraced CEO Joseph Cuschieri.
According to the data provided in Parliament, in 2019, at the height of Cuschieri’s leadership of the financial services regulator, over €232,000 was spent on PR and interviews – mostly in international magazines highlighting Cuschieri’s abilities.
In 2022, spending on PR was slashed to €60,000.
Data shows that over the last two years of Cuschieri at the MFSA (2019 and 2020), the biggest beneficiaries of direct orders were Halo Productions – a media company owned by former Film Commissioner Engelbert Grech and Media Today owner Saviour Balzan who was paid over €44,000 in three different direct orders for ‘positive content’.
The MFSA had started an investigation into Cuschieri’s direct orders to Balzan, but the conclusions were never made public.