While Finance Minister Clyde Caruana informed Parliament just before the summer recess that Air Malta Executive Chairman David Curmi is not being paid for the role, freedom of information challenges from The Shift show that he is being paid no less than €21,500 a month.
Documents obtained by The Shift show that Caruana lied to Parliament by falsely stating the 65-year-old he handpicked for the three-year contract worth €774,000 was not being paid for his role as the failing airline’s chairman. The statement could see him sanctioned by Parliament’s Privileges Committee.
Since Curmi’s appointment in 2021, Caruana has repeatedly refused to divulge the financial package that came with the position.
After thwarting various parliamentary questions on the subject and creating excuses to not publish Curmi’s contract, Caruana also shot down various freedom of information requests for a copy.
The finance ministry at first said the contract was not in its possession. But just recently, a few days before the House rose for the summer recess, Caruana went a step further and supplied Parliament with incorrect information about Curmi’s salary.
In response to questions over the composition of the boards falling under his remit and their respective salaries, Caruana presented a document stating that the Air Malta chairman “was not receiving any remuneration”.
Following various legal challenges by The Shift through the Freedom of Information mechanism, The Shift was finally given a copy of Curmi’s contract.
According to his three-year contract, being published in full by The Shift in the interest of transparency, Curmi will be making over three-quarters of a million euros for the three-year stint.
The former Chamber of Commerce president who spent most of his working life at an insurance agency is receiving €258,000 a year – making him the highest-paid local consultant.
The contract specifies that Curmi, as Executive Chair of Air Malta, is to be paid €21,500 a month plus an additional €3,500 a month to cover VAT.
This means that Curmi is being paid €124 an hour to lead Air Malta.
Curmi’s contract, which comes to an end this January and will likely coincide with Air Malta’s winding down, specifies that he is to speak directly and exclusively to the minister and that he cannot divulge any information, either of a political or commercial nature, to any other third party.
Engaged in 2021, and given the dual role of chairman and CEO, Curmi was given the task of turning the airline around and putting its finances back in the black.
The opposite, however, has happened and the government spent hundreds of millions of euros to shore up the airline. This included shedding more than half of its employees by giving them either golden handshakes or putting them on the state payroll.
Curmi also divested the airline of its loss-making departments, in particular its ground handling operations. Such interventions failed to yield the desired results and the airline continued to register millions of euros in losses.
After The Shift exposed the government’s plan to wind down Air Malta and replace it with a new and leaner national carrier on a low-cost model, Curmi admitted that Air Malta would close down by the end of this year.
Caruana, however, immediately and publicly censured Curmi and persisted in giving the impression that there is still a chance that Air Malta would survive.