The MFSA’s three-year Vegas cover-up

It was a pleasant surprise when The Shift received confirmation that the Malta Financial Services Authority finally acceded to its Freedom of Information (FOI) request and published its internal report commissioned into the incredibly ill-advised jaunt to Las Vegas that its CEO and legal counsel took with Yorgen Fenech.

What was a little more unpleasant was the fact that the public had to wait three long years for the report to see the light of day.

That came only after The Shift’s insistence on making the document public. That is because it was felt to have been of the utmost public interest to expose, for mere starters, the proximity between the regulators and the regulated.

First things first: The Shift should never have been compelled to file an FOI request in the first place.

That report should have been published the moment the MFSA’s board of directors had had a chance to digest it.

And it most certainly should have been published in the immediate wake of former CEO Joseph Cuschieri’s resignation in disgrace after he saw its conclusions.

This holds especially true when one considers how Fenech, accused of commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, both possessed and employed his by-now well-documented ability to insert himself into the pockets and handbags of politicians and ministers.

Fenech was also leading the ElectroGas power station project, which was mired in corruption since its inception.

Not only that, but the affair also exposed a case of revolving doors that opened directly into Fenech’s front parlour.

That is because Fenech is also a casino operator and, coincidence of coincidences, Cuschieri and Licari had earlier made a tandem move, joined at the hip as they were, from equivalent positions at the Malta Gaming Authority, which regulates all aspects of the casino business, to the MFSA, which regulates aspects of his businesses.

The party also included former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri’s then-personal assistant Charlene Bianco Farrugia.

As such, former MFSA CEO Joseph Cuschieri and the Authority’s legal counsel Edwina Licari should have known better. The choices show one of three things, or perhaps a sordid combination of complicity, complacency and incompetence.

But the MFSA had not deemed it fit for such information – where the country had Yorgen Fenech hosting two top former gaming regulators and current financial services regulators as well as the prime minister’s chief of staff’s PA on a trip to Las Vegas – to be released for public consumption.

The MFSA was, however, concerned enough in the wake of media reports to have commissioned retired chief justice and current Commissioner for Standards in Public Life Joe Azzopardi and lawyer Mark Simiana to investigate.

That investigation was concluded three years ago. It led to Cuschieri’s resignation while the Authority retained Licari.

This much had been made public, but the report into the maleficence was kept under lock and key and left to gather dust on a shelf, or in a safe, at the MFSA.

This was far from satisfactory. The public demanded answers, so The Shift insisted on the report being published in the public’s interest.

Still, the report does not uncover what really happened in Vegas, what discussions took place and what agreements and/or advice was given in return for Fenech’s generous hospitality. Those are perhaps matters that will never be known to anyone apart from those at the party.

The MFSA was asked by The Shift for a copy of the report and was denied. A subsequent request under the Freedom of Information Act was then filed. That, too, was refused.

The Shift then filed a complaint with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC). He then found the MFSA’s refusal to provide the report to have been “unjustified”.

In a break from the norm, when the MFSA published the report, it sent it to the entire media instead of making it available to the individual or entity requesting the information to be freed up.

Perhaps the Authority felt this was the ‘fit and proper’ thing to do under the circumstances, or perhaps it was reticent to give the thorn in the side that is The Shift the satisfaction.

The hows, whys and wherefores are irrelevant to us. Our interest was to see the report published and for the whole truth to emerge.

It was another battle for transparency won by The Shift, but the fact that we have to keep fighting these battles is anathema to the concept of good governance.

We do not wage these battles for our self-interest. we do so in the interest of good governance and the public’s right to know.

And we will continue to do so at every fork in the road, no matter what obstacles and hurdles we must overcome.


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1 month ago

The MFSA refused to provide the information to TheShiftnews. Christopher Buttigieg was acting CEO at MFSA at the time. He defended his disgraced friend Joseph Cuschieri. Together they squandered taxpayers monies in the flawed blockchain island disaster. Buttigieg should be held accountable and investigated. Together with Edwina Licari and Michelle Mizzi Buontempo, they hid public information. They know no shame. In the meantime they enjoy 100k euro annual salary.

1 month ago
Reply to  Isabelle

The same culprits refused to investigate and fine Nexia BT, the untouchables. TheShitnews had revealed the ties between Joseph Cuschieri and Brian Tonna at Portomaso.

Toni Borg
Toni Borg
1 month ago

A picture tells a thousand words they say…..Joseph Cuschieri should hide away in shame!!!

Out of Curiosity
Out of Curiosity
1 month ago

What a shame of a party in Government we have, full of parasites, corrupt, unethical and nonesence people, especially those who are occupying top posts with no clue of how to behave, let alone how to manage in the best interest of our country. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself, with a labour party close to that governed by Mintoff of the 80’s if not worse.

1 month ago

The Walls of Jericho are falling down.
“The Shift” the Biblical Trumpeteer, is doing what the Authorities should be doing , but instead the Authorities are in Cahoots with the criminals employed by the Labour Administration to hide or dilute their misdeeds.
The Humpty Dumpty poem is coming to fruition.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

Persistence for truth is a virtue.

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