Private jet chartering company VistaJet, which was funnelled €4.5 million in Maltese taxpayer funds between 2016 and 2018, is $4.4 billion in debt, with investors and auditors uncertain of its outlook, according to a report by the Financial Times.
The company, led by Swiss billionaire Thomas Flohr, signed a lucrative contract with the Malta Tourism Authority in 2016 in return for “communication and marketing” services. It was paid €1.5 million for each year in advance, totalling €4.5 million.
The FT investigation detailed how Flohr purchased more jets year after year, totalling 360, amassing $4.4 billion in debt, and speculatively hedging on his investment to the ire of company shareholders and auditors.
Independent auditing firm EY reviewed VistaJet’s 2022 financial accounts and commented that “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the group’s [VistaJet’s] ability to continue as a going concern”.
The company, which has been described as an “Uber for private planes” operates by offering its subscribers access and use of private jets globally and on short notice. VistaJet’s growth was based on risky acquisitions and huge expenses in rapidly growing its fleet of planes through the purchase of Bombardier planes, which kept the Canadian jet manufacturer afloat during troubled times in 2016.
VistaJet was the same company that operated a mysterious flight on the night between 21 and 22 April 2017, the same evening that Pilatus Bank chairman Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad and risk manager Antoniella Gauci were filmed leaving the bank’s ta’ Xbiex premises with suitcases filled with documents.
In May 2020, The Shift had revealed a secret contract showing how between 2016 and 2018, the Maltese government, on the instructions of then-tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis, had paid VistaJet €4.5 million for marketing services.
The services mostly involved VistaJet including marketing material for Malta on their jets’ iPads and centering Malta on a graphical map of their flight routes.
The highly suspicious contract, which stipulated that €1.5 million be paid upfront each year, was reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which found there was little to no tangible proof for the services acquired through the millions in taxpayer funds.
The contract was signed by Malta Tourism Authority Chairman Gavin Gulia with the authority’s Financial Controller Bryan Azzopardi claiming to have had no control or authority over the issuing of the funds, saying he had “no authority to challenge these payments”.
MTA Deputy CEO Leslie Vella admitted before the PAC that the tourism authority had never evaluated or scrutinised VistaJet’s services and that the contract was instead signed on the basis of “trust”.
“When you feel that the figures are correct, you create an environment of trust and therefore there’s no need to ask for verification,” he said.
It is about time that the PL Parliamentary Group together with the persons of trust infesting various public entities understand this.
It could be a crime to waste taxpayers’ funds and have little or no return.
Shame on you. What sort of an oath have you sworn to? To screw taxpayers’ funds to their full potential?
When the politicians swear on and kiss the cross after they’re voted in…they blasphem with their false oath!
Trust! How naive! People trusted Joseph Muscat once!
How ever can you trust criminals?
So for every €1 that we taxpayers handed over to Vista Jet it made €1 million debt. Nice piece of work. I wonder what Joseph Muscat got out of it.
Wherever Joseph touched, it was either corrupt, fraudulent or bankrupt!
and to think that he’s a consultant to so many companies makes one think whether his services are professional or simply telephone operator pulling strings within government departments and ministries in order that his clients get whatever they want!
Who on this planet gives 4.5 million euros based on trust? The tourism authority is a huge cash distribution machine way out of control. Leslie Vella should resign for his total incompetence. A controller and chairman paid to control and to authorise or not, declaring they have no authority? What is their job about?
Shall we understand that all heads of admins in this country are just crime facilitators?
Zammit, as Lawrence Cutajar, look very much alike the Rosianne Cutajar’s insider description about the people ruling this country.
They left no stone unturned to screw us..
Considering that VistaJet has an AOC in Malta, the Civil Aviation Directive have an invested interest in any accounts ans should they decide to revoke the AOC what happens then ?