Francois Piccione, one of Economy Minster Silvio Schembri’s closest friends and canvassers, has been put on a publicly-funded €101,000 a year contract, according to a Freedom of Information request filed by The Shift.
Piccione’s new contract as the new Deputy Chief Executive Officer of INDIS Malta – the government agency responsible for the administration of public land for industrial purposes – was signed by agency chairman Notary Jean Pierre Attard, another of Schembri’s canvassers.
During the last general elections, Attard and Piccione were the leaders of the minister’s electoral campaign’s ‘Team Silvio’. Soon after the elections, Schembri put both canvassers in key positions at INDIS Malta.
Sources at INDIS Malta told The Shift that Attard and Piccione have taken over the agency’s functions, with all decisions including those pertaining to public land allocations and permits, being discussed exclusively between Attard, Piccione and the minister.
“CEO Keith Fenech is only as a rubber stamp and a front for the decisions taken by the minister and his cronies,” a senior INDIS Malta official said.
At 31 years of age and with no experience whatsoever in manufacturing, Piccione, who, like the minister, is from Luqa, was placed at INDIS Malta on the minister’s direct orders.
According to his contract, signed by Attard and obtained through an FOI request, Piccione is to receive a €70,000 annual salary, which automatically increases every year by €2,500 – a 15% performance allowance (to be decided by the chairman-friend), a €7,000 car allowance, a €6,000 disturbance allowance and another €1,600 communications allowance.
On top of that, the contract provides full health insurance coverage for himself and his immediate family.
The chairman also inserted a clause in Piccione’s contract stating that if the post of Deputy CEO is abolished, given a change in government or minister, Piccione would still be entitled to receive his full salary and allowances until the end of his three-year contract.
To ensure his friend wouldn’t end up without a job, Schembri also ordered another government entity, GamingMalta, to sign a loan agreement with INDIS Malta so Piccione would automatically revert to his permanent job at the Gaming Foundation if Minister Schembri is removed or Labour lose power.
After graduating in 2013, Piccione joined his childhood friend, then-Parliamentary Secretary Schembri, in his private secretariat. He was given a number of jobs by the minister with his remuneration increasing each time.
Piccione hopped from the Malta Gaming Authority in 2014 to policy adviser at Schembri’s ministry in 2017, where he was entrusted with the failed ‘Blockchain Island’ project.
In 2020, Piccione was also put on the board of directors of Air Malta and given a job at Gaming Malta Foundation. In 2021, he was made Chief Operations Officer of the Malta Digital Industry Authority (MDIA) and a year later promoted to Deputy CEO of INDIS Malta.
He landed all the jobs via Schembri without a call for applications.