Opinion: An unsafe, threatening place

Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti

On 7 July 2017, Minister Edward Scicluna wrote a letter to the chairman of the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee (PANA), Werner Langer, after he questioned Jonathan Ferris’ sacking from Head of Unit at FIAU.

Scicluna insisted that Ferris’ sacking was “according to the law”.

Six long years later, the industrial tribunal ruled his sacking was unlawful, “discriminatory”, and “unjustified”. Ferris’ was awarded €20,000 in compensation.

The industrial tribunal has confirmed that everything Scicluna said about Ferris’ sacking was wrong – nothing was lawful about his sacking.

“The FIAU always worked in an appropriate manner,” Scicluna declared in 2017.

No, it didn’t.

“The FIAU Board took those decisions in an autonomous manner and without any external interference”.

Absolutely not.

Just three days before Ferris was sacked, Scicluna launched a scathing attack on the FIAU. He demanded the FIAU’s Board explain how reports about Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Pilatus Bank, Adrian Hillman and the LNG terminal were leaked.

He said those reports “were written to be leaked”.

Scicluna was incensed because those reports revealed serious compliance failures at Pilatus Bank, while disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat claimed nothing was wrong.

They revealed the company responsible for the LNG tanker paid money into 17-Black.

They concluded that Keith Schembri should face an investigation into kickbacks from passport sales and money laundering.

Those reports exposed Konrad Mizzi’s suspicious financial structures.

Scicluna – now Central Bank Governor – was incandescent, publicly calling for the FIAU’s blood. Nobody knows what happened behind the scenes in those three days – because Scicluna refused to answer questions.

Scicluna was repeatedly asked whether he was involved in Ferris’ sacking. But Scicluna remained silent.

In reply to parliamentary questions 2702 and 2703 about the sacking, Scicluna had said he had nothing to add.

In answer to PQ 347 of 29 November 2017, Scicluna had said there was “no interference” but declined to comment about whether he was privy to information or involved in communication about Ferris.

When pressed by The Shift, his ministry replied, “The minister has nothing more to add”.

The FIAU also refused to reply to questions.

But the FIAU had plenty to hide. Ferris was made Head of Unit at FIAU on 1 November 2016. He proceeded to conduct detailed investigations on politically exposed persons (PEPs). He signed off on a detailed report on the money paid by the company behind the LNG tanker to the Dubai company owned by Yorgen Fenech –  17 Black.

The FIAU board failed to finalise it.

Two reports, completed in June and November 2016, about Keith Schembri, were passed on to the police. Another report on Konrad Mizzi was concluded, but the FIAU Board never convened to decide whether to forward it to the police.

By May 2017, although still Head of Unit, Ferris was excluded from all FIAU discussions about PEPs.

The FIAU waited until Labour won the 2017 elections held on 3 June. Just days later, Ferris was sacked, with Charles Cronin, another senior FIAU official with extensive experience in the financial services sector in London, Jersey and Frankfurt.

They were sacked following a unanimous decision by the FIAU board of governors on the recommendation of its director, Kenneth Farrugia.

That Board of Governors was chaired by the former Attorney General Peter Grech. On that board was Edward Scicluna’s selected candidate, Silvio Valletta, husband to former minister Justyne Caruana, in Cabinet with Scicluna, Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat.

Scicluna testified under oath before the Caruana Galizia inquiry that he chose Valletta from a list of three potential candidates submitted by the police because he was “the most senior”.

Scicluna was lying. To cover his lie, he refused to reveal who the other two candidates were, even before the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.

When challenged about why he had chosen Valletta, he arrogantly replied, “It was my prerogative, and I don’t need to give a reason”, contradicting his sworn evidence that he’d selected “the most senior”.

Valletta wasn’t the most senior. On that list was Assistant Police Commissioner Pierre Calleja, who’d served on the FIAU board since its inception. He was far more senior than Valletta, then still a superintendent.

The choice between Valletta and Calleja was obvious, but Scicluna picked Valletta and then lied about the reasons for his choice and concealed the names of the other candidates. Valletta has since been forced to leave in disgrace.

Ferris took the FIAU before the Industrial Tribunal. He maintained his sacking was “politically motivated”. He was adamant that he was sacked to intimidate and stop him from investigating PEPs.

The FIAU refuted its claims and declared it acted correctly and responsibly in the best interests of society.

It claimed it always allowed its officials to carry out their work freely. The FIAU stated that “no conclusive report exists” about the LNG terminal. But the Tribunal heard Ferris had signed off the LNG terminal report, but the FIAU board had not finalised it.

Ferris claimed that the police had ignored reports about Keith Schembri. The police rebutted that “it was shameful that seeds of doubt about the corp’s integrity were being sown through non-existent facts”.

It took four years and Muscat’s ousting before Schembri was arrested and charged with corruption and money laundering based on those “non-existent facts”.

The prescient Daphne Caruana Galizia had commented about the sacking: “Another State institution has been captured and decimated – not only for the protection of the crooks in government but equally crucially for the harassment of the enemies of those crooks and the government they run”.

“This is dangerous to everyone. It makes Malta an unsafe and threatening place in which to live”. Three months later, she was blown up.

Six years later, Jonathan Ferris has been proven right. His sacking was discriminatory and unjustified.

Six years later, Daphne was proven right. Malta is an unsafe and threatening place.

That Tribunal’s damning judgement exposes the despicable rottenness of one of those who made Malta so. He’s now comfortably installed as Central Bank Governor.

Maybe we should ask him to pay Ferris €20,000 in compensation. Perhaps it’s time to pay for what he did.

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Carmelo Micallef
Carmelo Micallef
1 month ago

Hear. Hear.

D M Briffa
D M Briffa
1 month ago

An absolutely first-class article. Thank you, Professor Cassar. I have no idea how you manage to hold down a demanding day job and still write superbly-researched and beautifully-written articles, here and elsewhere, every week.

Andrew Farrugia
Andrew Farrugia
1 month ago

PROF ( sic) Edward Scicluna may have acquired all the wealth and clout of this world ( even through his Bartoli, political and financial connections) BUT honesty and integrity will forever elude him.

At the end of the day, at sunset time, one goes there BARE, with just his / her intrinsic values.

Good day.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

And if intrinsic values are found lacking, one can easily imagine that the price to be paid far outstrips Euro 20,000!

The Gospel warning is clear enough, Prof. Scicluna:”He who has ears let him listen”

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

Well said professor

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

The least Edward Scicluna can do, is to make a public apology.

Steve magri
Steve magri
1 month ago

Attacking leaks is not threatening.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
1 month ago

Scicluna should be forced to resign immediately.
Another disgraceful person.

Albert Beliard
Albert Beliard
1 month ago

There is a conspiracy between the OPM, the rotten police force and the Office of the AG under then-Peter ‘Go Slow’ Grech which will haunt Finance Minister Edward Scicluna who knew about gross sanctions evasion violations by Pilatus Bank and its two Iranian directors which then-magistrate Aaron Bugeja intentionally missed to thoroughly investigate, which is an obstruction of justice, while the FIAU operating as a ‘criminal unit’ was being criticized by the European Administration as having ‘systematic shortcomings’ in the enforcement of EU anti-money laundering rules.

This corrupt regime who has violated strict regulations against dodging sanctions made a bad ‘mistake’ to give a banking license to Pilatus Bank for criminal activity, using BOV as one of its correspondent banks which Edward Scicluna was fully aware while he was the Finance Minister causing Jonathan Ferris to become a victim of the criminal scheme and white-washing.

Edward Scicluna is also aware of other corruption scandals with the ElectroGas consortium and 17 Black that involved state-aid violations, without forgetting the criminal fraud and state-aid violations in the VGH-SHC hospitals deal.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

Profs Edward Scicluna’s rightful place is in a prison cell. He was Minister of Finance approving all illicit payments and guarantees, while washing plates in the kitchen dish washer and pleading he was outside the kitchen cabinet.
What happened to his court case regarding the scandalous payments to Vitals/Steward Healthcare? Is he in cahoots with the AG to quote some inexistent article in the law to release him from criminal liability?
I still wonder how he has the cheek and hard skin to attend at International Conferences on World Banking when money laundering is the key item on every conference/meeting of Cental Bankers. Well, he may have enough expertise on money laundering.

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