The Maltese government is facing accusations of discrimination that could result in legal challenges related to how it handles the employment of those accused of criminal offences, legal experts told The Shift.
Highlighting the case of two government employees, Kurt Buhagiar and Sandro Craus – both facing criminal charges – lawyers said they could not understand why one was suspended from his work as per regular procedure while the second is still at work on full-time pay.
“It seems that the rules in the public sector are being used as chewing gum according to who you are and how close one is to the prime minister,” one of the lawyers told The Shift.
“Employees being treated differently is unacceptable. This is tantamount to discrimination, and many who found themselves in the same situation as Craus are seriously contemplating filing claims of discrimination,” another lawyer said.
Currently, there are tens of public sector employees, including members of the police force and soldiers, who have been suspended from work after being charged in court with various criminal offences.
Following a parliamentary question from Nationalist Party MP Rebekah Borg, it was revealed that Buhagiar, an employee of the Lands Authority who is facing charges in connection with the involuntary homicide of Jean-Paul Sofia, was immediately suspended from his work and put on half-pay.
But this did not happen in the case of Craus, Labour’s mayor of Rabat and an employee of Projects Plus – a public sector entity.
He was arraigned in court in June 2022 on charges of corruption and the misuse of public funds related to a phantom job given to the fixer of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Melvin Theuma. But despite this, he remains in his position with his full €65,000-a-year financial package.
When The Shift contacted his direct superior, James Camenzuli, he could not explain, saying only that Craus was never suspended.
Labour did not even ask Craus to resign from his post as Rabat mayor, for which he also receives an honorarium on top of his Projects Plus salary.
According to rules, all public officers are immediately suspended from their jobs and put on half-pay if criminal charges are filed against them in court.
If found guilty, they are fired, but if found innocent, they are reinstated and receive back salary payments for the time they were suspended.