Safe City board renewed as surveillance programme being ‘shut down’

The controversial Safe City Malta project appears to still be alive and kicking despite the government’s pledge last January to close down the company and its controversial public surveillance programme that was being developed for the government by China’s Huawei.

The Safe City Malta project had been first introduced by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat as a facial recognition CCTV system that was to be implemented first in crime-hit areas such as Paceville and Marsa.

The announcement had been met with widespread criticism both on a Maltese and an EU level, not just over the use of facial recognition but also because of the government’s chosen partner, China’s Huawei, which itself has been embroiled in a number of international surveillance controversies.

The government said in January that the contract with Huawei, which had been introduced to Malta by former minister Konrad Mizzi’s Chinese wife, Sai Mizzi Liang, had expired, that it would not be renewed and that the government-owned company, Safe City Malta, would be closed down.

Sai Mizzi

‘Judge me by my results and not by what people say. Judge me by what I do for you,’ Sai Mizzi Liang said when inaugurating Huawei’s Malta office in 2016.

That, however, does not seem to have happened. The government, in fact, has now appointed a new board to run the ‘Big Brother’ project.

Omar Debono, a former INDIS Malta Ltd chief operations officer, has been reappointed as the company’s director and Major Joseph Cauchi and Nadine Mizzi have been appointed as its board members.

The company is 100% owned by Malta Strategic Partnership Projects Ltd, which falls directly under the remit of Prime Minister Robert Abela. Cuschieri is on Malta Strategic Partnership Projects’ board.

Safe City Malta, the government said six months ago, was being wound down but the board of directors and a company secretary have now been appointed for another year until June 2024.

According to budget estimates, Safe City Malta is being run on a €400,000-a-year budget with nothing, so far, to show for Muscat’s failed brainwave apart from a hole in the state coffers and a hole in Malta’s reputation as the EU country willing to go down the Orwellian route in the name of public safety.

Buckling to pressure from the EU and the European Parliament, which had both expressed grave concerns over the surveillance programme, the government had backtracked on the project’s contentious facial recognition element over fears of breaking Maltese and EU laws.

It had said that even though the system has facial recognition capability, it will not be deployed.

Safe City Malta’s former director was Joe Cuschieri, who resigned from a posting as Malta Financial Services Authority CEO in the wake of an all-expenses-paid trip he took with the man now charged with commissioning the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, casino owner Yorgen Fenech to Las Vegas. Cuschieri had also formerly headed the Malta Gaming Authority.

Joseph Cuschieri and Sai Mizzi Liang.

Cuschieri said in 2021 that instead of facial recognition, the system would use “advanced video surveillance” to detect certain disturbances in the areas under surveillance.

That watered-down version, however, is believed to have still fallen foul of EU surveillance rules, which led to the government’s announcement in January that the programme would be scrapped altogether.

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3 months ago

Filwaqt li sistema bhal dik mhux biss hija illegali fl-UE imma tikser id-drittijiet fundamentali… u prova ta’ dan huma r-regoli tal-AI li ghadha kemm harget l-Unjoni Ewropea ftit granet ilu… l-Unjoni Ewropea ghamlitha cara l-Hamis li ghadda li l-Huawei m’ghandhiex post fis-suq uniku …u dan meta habbret li se tkun qed twaqqaf l-access taghha u ta’ kumpanija ohra min-networks tal-5G tal-UE. Apparti dan, l-Unjoni Ewropea qed tmur oltre u qed tappella biex aktar pajjiżi jaghmlu bhalha.

Last edited 3 months ago by mark
A. Fan
A. Fan
3 months ago

Has this made Malta any safer? I seriously doubt it. Whether it has put more money in the pockets of the Mizzis, Cuschieris and other oinkers at the taxpayer-funded MLP trough I have no doubts about.

3 months ago
Reply to  A. Fan

No town or city is safe at all, only money is safely hidden, but hopefully that might have left a trail too..

Paul Henry Berman
Paul Henry Berman
3 months ago

Judge me by my results and not by what people say.

Took the money and ran never to be seen again

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