Air Malta has not yet been able to collate the necessary documents detailing its multi-million payments to its consultants, Knighthood Global Ltd, since 2022, despite an official request being made over a month ago.
In October, The Shift asked Air Malta for a list of all payments made to the consultancy firm since 2022, including the value of payments, frequency, and reason.
Air Malta told The Shift it requires at least another month to produce the requested information.
The beleaguered national carrier said that the delay is because “the request is for a large number of documents or necessitates a search through a large number of documents.”
Also, Air Malta insisted that it consult the same consultants it pays before deciding whether to provide the requested information.
The Shift filed the Freedom of Information request after Air Malta Chairman David Curmi and Finance Minister Clyde Caruana ignored questions on why they hired the same consultants initially tasked with saving Air Malta from bankruptcy to help them create a new airline.
Since 2022, Air Malta has been paying €200,000 a month to a company owned by James Hogan and James Rigney, the former top two managers of Etihad.
Initially, with good connections to Malta, their consultancy firm was hired to assist Curmi in convincing the EU to allow a new injection of state aid funds and save the airline from collapse.
This did not happen as Brussels rejected the plan that Curmi and his consultants presented.
Instead of terminating their assignment following their failure, Curmi – who has no experience in the aviation industry – decided to keep the same consultants on board and help him create a new airline, replacing Air Malta.
This new ‘idea’, similar to what happened with Alitalia, will once again cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros.
Ironically, the Air Malta consultants Hogan and Rigney were forced out of Etihad due to their failed strategy and are currently facing criminal charges in Italy connected to the bankruptcy of Alitalia.
Air Malta sources told The Shift that apart from the hundreds of thousands of euros being paid to Knighthood, the penniless Air Malta is also forking out many other payments connected to the duo’s consultancy.
These include payments for hiring more staff formerly employed with Etihad and refunds for expenses incurred by Knighthood consultants, including accommodation, travel, subsistence, and entertainment.
Air Malta is expected to be officially grounded at the end of next March. The government has issued no details on the new airline or its name.
Hogan and Rigney are not new to Malta’s aviation industry.
In 2017, when they were at the helm of Etihad and Alitalia, they convinced disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and then chairwoman Maria Micallef to sell Air Malta to Alitalia.
The deal was reversed only at the eleventh hour when it became clear that the former Italian carrier was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Hogan and Rigney were removed from Etihad a few months later.