Opinion: desperately needing protection

Last October, The Times of Malta reported that a minister’s driver who claimed he couldn’t drive because of his frequent epileptic fits was getting thousands of euro in benefits as part of the disability benefits fraud.

That man, Roger Agius, was recruited by junior minister Andy Ellul on a person-of-trust basis to work in his secretariat as his personal driver while claiming he had no driving licence. 

Agius has been receiving those benefits since 2016.  He previously worked closely with Silvio Grixti, the MP who allegedly orchestrated the scam, serving as his driver and canvasser. When Grixti was quietly forced to resign, Ellul recruited Agius.

As the unbelievable story of the minister’s “disabled” driver was revealed, Ellul went berserk. “The Times published a story that sources within the PN inform me is part of an attack being prepared against me,” he declared on Facebook.

He added, “I can declare upfront that if this is so, it will fizzle into nothing.” 

Six months later, and the same Roger Agius filed a blistering judicial protest last week.

In it, he declared his willingness to expose “a high-level criminal organisation operating within the highest echelons of the executive arm of government”, which had the sole aim “of defrauding public coffers of tens of millions of euro, acting with utmost impunity, with the help, assistance, encouragement and complicity of a government minister, a parliamentary secretary and several public officials with the objective of garnering more votes for the ruling party”. 

Andy Ellul’s prediction that things would “fizzle out” didn’t quite materialise.

“It’s true my driver resigned from my secretariat, but that was six months ago,” was Ellul’s excuse. 

Agius resigned in April 2023 but worked as Ellul’s driver since 2021, when he was already collecting his disability allowance.

“I can state with certainty that I knew nothing and was not informed of any abuse,” Ellul declared.  That’s no defence. 

That’s an indictment of Ellul’s incompetent recklessness.  It was his responsibility to conduct the appropriate due diligence on the person recruited to his secretariat. 

Besides, Ellul knew perfectly well who Roger Agius was.  He knew how close he’d been to Silvio Grixti. Did Ellul not know why Grixti was forced out?  

Prime Minister Robert Abela chose Ellul to take Grixti’s seat in parliament.  Abela certainly knew about Grixti’s alleged involvement in the massive scam.  Abela bragged, only after the scandal was exposed, that he had demanded Grixti’s resignation. 

But at the time, Abela kept it very quiet.  Nobody knew why the well-loved Grixti had been forced out so suddenly and unexpectedly because Abela covered up the whole racket and his MP’s alleged involvement. 

Yet Abela kept Grixti on as an OPM consultant on a €20,500 until retainer at least 2022.  Grixti continued to receive €50,761 by Transport Malta after he resigned from parliament. 

He was paid an additional €23,123 as consultant to former health minister Chris Fearne. Abela not only covered up for Grixti but also allowed him to continue collecting almost €95,000 euros from public coffers. 

Any honest prime minister would have terminated those contracts, knowing how serious the allegations about Grixti were.  But Abela chose to keep Grixti happy and quiet.

Abela kept defending Grixti even after The Times revealed the scandal in September 2023.  “The allegation that the ex-MP (Grixti) was involved in the benefits scam remains an allegation that is still being investigated,” Abela said.

In his October Facebook post, Andy Ellul declared, “I want to point out that it was the OPM that first reported the case when, over two years ago, there was a whiff of the benefits abuse. I appeal to the PN that instead of playing a filthy political game, they should support the search for truth and not try and manipulate it”.  

The PN has nothing to do with it.  It’s his own driver, his own canvasser who accusing the prime minister and his office of ignoring his requests to provide information about the “criminal organisation

A minister’s driver, a former person of trust in a Labour secretariat, is no PN supporter.  Roger Agius is deep red Labour, trusted by both Grixti and Ellul.

He was so trusted that “a member of the state executive” and “a senior government official” directed him not to report for work but to focus on ‘constituency work’ for the Labour Party.

Agius is suspected of having had the central role of introducing people to the benefits racket.  While he was at it, he allegedly joined in and started claiming disability benefits for himself – and continued to do so for several years. 

When the scandal was finally exposed, Robert Abela  cynically claimed that “what came out on Sunday was not new… the case was revealed by Castille.”

He quickly corrected himself, “not revealed, but reported to the police by Castille”.  

Last September, the OPM urged “illicit recipients” to assist police in the benefits fraud investigation and encouraged them to provide any evidence, including the identities of those who enticed them into the scam.

Roger Agius believed them. In November and December, he wrote to the OPM, offering to provide all the information about the racket, how it operated, and how kickbacks amounting to thousands of euro were paid to middlemen and the powerful people behind it.

In a judicial protest filed last week, he said the OPM ignored him and didn’t even acknowledge his e-mails. Agius even informed the financial crimes police department that he would testify. 

Instead, a very senior police official allegedly leaked information from his interrogation to the minister. Agius was even pressured to change his lawyer and offered a lawyer engaged by the government. 

Labour is desperate to silence Roger Agius. He knows exactly how that multi-million-euro racket was run, who was behind it and the massive amounts of money stolen for votes. 

It’s no wonder Robert Abela refused to give him whistleblower status. Agius now needs much more than that — he needs protection.

                           

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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

It is unbelievable that such a scandal ridden government is still in power. The scandals started under Joseph Muscat and continued relentlessly under Robert Abela.

Mick
Mick
1 month ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

Mafialand, is there any other way?

Paolo Soldi
Paolo Soldi
1 month ago

I can’t understand why labours have to be desperate. Their voters don’t care and don’t realize what it is happening, they are happy and they continue voting for labour. No brain, no emotion, no understanding, no change.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago
Reply to  Paolo Soldi

No brain, no emotion, no understanding”

In other words, good enough to be fed on chick-peas and peanuts – no matter if these are rancid.

Joe gerada
Joe gerada
1 month ago
Reply to  Paolo Soldi

This is exactly the mistaken analysis that many PN supporters make. Thinking that somehow you are superior to others reinforces their idea that what you have to say is not worth listening to.

Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
1 month ago

“…I appeal to the PN that instead of playing a filthy political game, they should support the search for truth and not try and manipulate it”.   Why not prosecute the PN and move on to the next fraud?

Last edited 1 month ago by Lawrence Mifsud
Vanni
Vanni
1 month ago

Abela not only covered up for Grixti but also allowed him to continue collecting almost €95,000 euros from public coffers.  

Does anybody remember the trial by media, that Joseph (the one who couldn’t afford a PC and printer) drummed up when it was revealed that the Government of the day was planning on giving its ministers a €500 a week (or €26,000 a year) pay rise?

The Labour mafia not only made each labour Tom and Gianna in parliament a minister (we even have a minister for rubbish although in all fairness it fits him like a glove), but showered them with consultancies as well.

Would be interesting to know how much each labour MP, is taking home through remuneration, consultancies etc, and how much their partners are getting and comparing what say Dr. Gonzi and his wife Kate were to receive including the infamous €500 a week.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vanni

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