Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has issued direct orders to a company that took care of his electoral campaign during the last general elections.
Investigations by The Shift show that during 2023, Antilia Ltd, owned by Labour Party activist Ayrton Bonnici, was given two direct orders by the Finance Ministry to provide “media services”, receiving more than €45,000 in twelve months.
No details were given on the type of “media services” the 26-year-old’s company provides the finance minister.
The ministry already employs a full-time spokesperson to supposedly coordinate the minister’s media presence.
Incidentally, following the 2022 general elections, in which Caruana successfully contested the elections for the first time, Antila Ltd received most of the ministers’ expenses during the campaign.
According to Caruana’s ‘campaign expenditure report’, submitted to the Electoral Commission, Caruana listed Antilia Ltd as paying for advertising, stationery, leaflets, and online advertising for the minister.
Invoices presented to the Commission name Antila Ltd as the company that paid for the services given to the minister.
At the time, the minister did not explain his connection to Antilia or its owner. However, he had said that he covered all his campaign costs, €21,666, with the help of four donors – Robert Aquilina (€2,500), Ian Camilleri (€2,500), Raymond Caruana (€5,000) and Joseph Camilleri (€5,000).
The Shift contacted the minister to ask questions about his issuance of direct orders to a company that took care of and possibly also paid part of his winning electoral campaign, but he did not reply.
The Shift asked whether he has a conflict of interest and whether the direct orders he gives to his electoral campaign manager and company are some kind of “payback” with public funds.
No answer was forthcoming by the time of publication.
As Finance Minister, Caruana is obliged to keep fiscal discipline among his cabinet colleagues and to report any abuse of public funds
However, The Shift has discovered more connections between Caruana and Antilia Ltd.
In 2021, shortly after Caruana took over the ministry, Bonnici’s Antilia Ltd was given a direct order worth €26,000 for “filming services”.
Another direct order, worth €6,500 for just one month, was issued to the same company by JobsPlus in December 2021.
Caruana, a former chief executive of JobsPlus, was the minister responsible for the agency at the time of the direct order.
Last year, the Customs Department, also under Caruana’s remit, issued an €800 direct order to Antilia to provide pens for an “anti-cigarette smuggling” campaign.
Ayrton Bonnici, from Birzebbugia, formed part of Labour’s youth wing, Forum Zghazagh Laburisti, and was its organising secretary. He also ‘helped’ the Labour Party during the 2017 electoral campaign.