• WhatsApp messages show Ian Borg and ministry staff fed names to Transport Malta licensing director
  • Pressure to help candidates came from PM’s office, ministries   
  • Candidates advised not to allow their driving instructor to be present in the car during the practical exam
  • ‘This is getting out of control,’ Mansueto warned superior
  • OPM dismisses revelations as 'regurgitated'
  • Police yet to act on 'voluminous' evidence citing names of high-ranking officials

Updated October 2 with Cana Movement statement

A Transport Malta racket to help candidates obtain a driving licence leads straight to former Transport Minister Ian Borg and his trusted workers. 

WhatsApp chats obtained by Times of Malta show Borg, his canvasser Jesmond Zammit, and his ministry personnel regularly piled pressure on Transport Malta’s director of licensing Clint Mansueto to "help" candidates at different stages of the licensing process.

Mansueto and two low-level Transport Malta clerks, Philip Edrick Zammit and Raul Antonio Pace, face corruption and trading in influence in connection with the racket. They deny the charges.

Some of the driving candidates hailed from Borg’s electoral districts. 

Ian Borg and his customer care team communicated directly with Clint Mansueto about driving candidates.Ian Borg and his customer care team communicated directly with Clint Mansueto about driving candidates.

A customer care official from the Prime Minister's office, as well as the Prime Minister's personal assistant and the Gozo Minister's chief of staff also passed on the names of candidates.

Hundreds of candidates were given to Mansueto to have their tests fast-tracked and even for "help" to secure a driving licence.

Chats show how some candidates would be advised not to allow their driving instructor to be present in the car during the practical exam, to facilitate the scheme. 

The chats reveal a litany of requests to help prospective drivers, from an "opm vvip client" to candidates whose driving skills appeared to leave much to be desired. 

Then-OPM customer care official Ray Mizzi and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri's chief of staff Michael Buhagiar even admitted in the chats to passing on the names of two candidates in the hope of securing their vote.

The full scale of the scheme, revealed a month after Times of Malta exposed the social benefits scandal, raises legal, political and public safety concerns.

Transport Malta offices in Lija. Three of its officials were charged last year in connection with the racket.Transport Malta offices in Lija. Three of its officials were charged last year in connection with the racket.

A driving examiner told a court last year that Mansueto warned him that unless a vehicle came back “splattered in blood,” the driver must pass his test. 

Examiner Roderick Cavallo testified how on another occasion, Mansueto told him that he would have to “answer to the minister” if he failed a particular candidate. 

Cavallo described how he would seek to make the selected candidates comfortable and would try to avoid busy roads to cut down on possible mistakes during the test.

“I didn’t feel comfortable as I would have been held responsible had they failed," he said.

Other examiners have testified about being “pressured” by Mansueto to give certain candidates a pass, but insisted this did not influence the outcome of the eventual test. 

WhatsApp chats obtained by Times of Malta lend credence to Cavallo’s testimony, as they show Mansueto was a cog in a larger scheme that saw names of candidates fed to him from Borg’s ministry and from other government officials.

The police force's financial crimes investigation department. Officers have had the chats for over a year but have not prosecuted any of the people piling demands on Mansueto.The police force's financial crimes investigation department. Officers have had the chats for over a year but have not prosecuted any of the people piling demands on Mansueto.

Despite having the chat logs in their possession for well over a year, the police have not prosecuted any of the individuals who texted Mansueto to help specific test candidates. 

OPM says revelations are 'regurgitated'

In total, an investigation by Times of Malta shows over 11 government and Transport Malta officials showed knowledge of the scheme.

Current PBS chairman Mark Sammut also pushed Mansueto with requests about specific candidates. Sammut is an ex-Transport Malta official, and the requests stopped after he took up his role at the national broadcaster. 

Some of the high-profile individuals name-dropped in the chats.Some of the high-profile individuals name-dropped in the chats.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Robert Abela dismissed the revelations as “regurgitated” when contacted by Times of Malta

The spokesman said Abela has nothing to add to his declaration last year that no government officials were under investigation. 

A spokesman for Robert Abela dismissed Times of Malta's revelations as 'regurgitated'.A spokesman for Robert Abela dismissed Times of Malta's revelations as 'regurgitated'.

Police have yet to prosecute others 

In September 2022, a month after Mansueto’s prosecution, investigators admitted they had “not yet” questioned the various people who passed on names to the Transport Malta official.  

Questions sent to the police by Times of Malta about the lack of further action in the case were not answered. 

Investigators have described the case in court as a “complex” one involving “voluminous” evidence. 

Despite the “complexity” of the case, the scheme itself was a simple one.

Government officials would flag the names of candidates to Mansueto. 

Mansueto would then seek to assign those candidates a “friendly” driving examiner or move them up the queue for a driving test, with the alleged complicity of the two clerks.

Candidates were at times told not to let their instructor accompany them during the test, in an apparent bid to avoid raising unnecessary questions if an undeserved pass was given. 

Robert Abela’s personal assistant Rachel Debono, who at the time was the personal assistant to  Transport Malta’s chairman, was one of those who told Mansueto that selected candidates had been told not to have their “learner” accompany them on the test.

Prime Minister Robert Abela's personal assistant Rachel Debono.Prime Minister Robert Abela's personal assistant Rachel Debono.

The ‘Dingli barman’ 

The chats expose how Borg, together with top aides and ministry officials, regularly highlighted names of driving candidates to Mansueto. 

In one message to Mansueto, Borg said the barman of a Dingli establishment was waiting to be given a test date by Transport Malta. 

“Your friend is my friend… :)”, Mansueto replied. 

Borg told Mansueto a barman in Dingli, where Mansueto lived, was sitting for his test.

Borg replied 20 minutes later with a thumbs-up emoji. 

Two weeks later, Mansueto informed the minister that the barman “graduated this morning”. 

Two weeks later, Mansueto told Borg the Dingli barman had 'graduated'.

“He must be wearing a toga then,” Borg quipped in a November 2019 message. 

In another example, Borg provided the details and ID card number of a candidate, by the surname of Cauchi, who Times of Malta has identified as a member of Pulse, Labour’s political student wing. 

“He has his test on Wednesday and is saying they are not being fair with him. He has already been twice before. Maybe they can see that they are fair with him. Thanks,” Borg wrote. 

“All ok,” Mansueto wrote back the day after the Pulse member’s test. 

Borg acknowledged the message with a “thanks”.  

Divine intervention 

In other instances, Borg would simply give Mansueto the name and test details of a candidate, without any further preamble. 

“On Tuesday [name redacted] Muscat @12pm test date. Good afternoon,” the minister said in one May 2019 message, to which Mansueto replied a minute later: “In my hands”. 

In another example, Borg forwarded the details of a candidate due to sit for his test the following day. 

"In my hands..we try our best as always...", Mansueto replied in a June 2020 chat.

In another September 2020 chat, Borg sent Mansueto a screenshot of a late-night message he received from former Cana Movement director and Rabat priest Joe Mizzi. 

The message from the priest read: “Hi hello. Pray for my nephew  [name and surname redacted] for tomorrow. Thanks and good health. See you.” 

“In my hands father. Gd nt,” Borg’s reply in the screenshot read. 

Ian Borg forwarded this message from a Rabat priest to Clint Mansueto in September 2020.Ian Borg forwarded this message from a Rabat priest to Clint Mansueto in September 2020.

One minute after the reply to the priest, Borg sent the screenshot to Mansueto. 

Upon seeing the screenshot the following day, Mansueto replied: “Good morning Ian…noted”. 

Later on in the day, Mansueto said in the same chat: “This one is OK Ian.” 

In a statement, the Cana Movement disassociated itself with the message. 

"The Cana Movement and the Cana Foundation categorically denies that in September, 2020 a priest from Rabat was then associated with it or could then be referred to as being “Ta’ Kana” or who could represent them.

"Fr. Charles Attard, who in September, 2020 was the only Director of the  Cana Movement and the only priest forming part of the board of management of the Cana Foundation, also categorically denies of  having written or sent the message referred to in the said article," the movement said. 

Labour event supplier 

Mere days before Mansueto’s arrest in October 2021, Borg forwarded him a list of 22 asylum seekers and foreign nationals, all employed by TEC Limited or iStage, the Labour Party’s events suppliers.

The accompanying message forwarded by Borg from the original sender read: “I have some people who need a license, to check if they can speed it up and help them a bit, because they are not Maltese. Keep me posted.”

“Complicated case… do we have a mobile number please,” Mansueto said in reply to the minister. 

In response, Borg sent Mansueto a screenshot of TEC and iStage owner Charles Magro’s number. 

Ian Borg passed on Charles Magro's contact details to Clint Mansueto to follow up on the TEC owner's request for licensing help.Ian Borg passed on Charles Magro's contact details to Clint Mansueto to follow up on the TEC owner's request for licensing help.

“Spoke with him… Already we will take it from there,” Mansueto replied. 

Magro did not respond to a request for comment. 

In an earlier message that same month, Borg forwarded Mansueto a chat from someone identified as “Stephen”, complaining that an Indian employee of his had already sat for his test around three times.  

“Do you know how much you will be helping me if he passes. He’s going for the test next Wednesday,” the message forwarded by Borg to Mansueto read.

“Spoke with Stephen... Case in hand... Good morning,” Mansueto dutifully replied the following day. 

In previous messages, Borg emphasised that “Stephen” is a friend of his from Żebbuġ, who owns a lift company. Żebbuġ is one of Borg’s electoral districts. 

Times of Malta identified Stephen as Stephen Farrugia, who owns Advent Lift Services. Farrugia did not respond to a request for comment. 

A Nationalist MP

Although the scheme appeared geared towards appeasing Labour voters, one notable exception emerges from Borg’s chats with Mansueto, involving PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami’s son. 

“This is Fenech Adami’s son. [Mobile number, name redacted]. So we give him a new [test] date please,” Borg said in an October 2020 message. 

Contacted by Times of Malta, Fenech Adami said he had no recollection of bringing up these matters with Borg, other than “critically telling him that applications for driving tests at Malta Transport were taking months to be processed.

PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami.PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami.

“I have never asked Minister Borg for any preferential treatment for my son and, as explained, he was surely never given such treatment. I never asked minister Borg to pass any details of my son to Clint Mansueto. I do not know and have never spoken to Clint Mansueto,” Fenech Adami said. 

‘I have always been loyal’

In August 2021, Mansueto alerted the minister about an anonymous letter containing numerous allegations, including claims Mansueto was “working against” Borg. 

“You know I have always been loyal to you, and always will be loyal to you, and only to you!” Mansueto said. 

Borg got back to Mansueto with what appears to be a very carefully crafted reply, several hours later. 

“I know I always asked you to find solutions solely within the parameters of the law. As far as I am aware, that is what you have done. Be careful, because yes, they are on to you,” Borg warned. 

In August 2021, Borg wrote Mansueto a carefully worded message. Transport Malta was already aware of the police probe at this stage.

At that stage, Transport Malta officials were already aware the police were investigating allegations of wrongdoing by Mansueto, as an official had been appointed to assist investigators with their probe in March 2021.

Ian Borg: I act on people's complaints

Contacted by Times of Malta, Borg dismissed any claims of wrongdoing. 

Borg said the messages prove that as a minister, his door is open to everyone.

“I hear out people’s complaints and act on them. Everyone speaks to me, from youths to a priest, commercial companies from Żebbuġ to Nadur - as well as Beppe Fenech Adami. As a minister, I always forwarded these messages to the authority,” Borg said. 

Borg said he always instructed Transport Malta to help people within the parameters of the law, insisting his messages with Mansueto always made it clear that everything should be done legally. 

The minister said the people mentioned in the messages, as well as hundreds of others like them, were not asking for anything illegal. 

Trading in influence, which is defined in Maltese law as offering, directly or indirectly, an undue advantage to someone, carries a minimum sentence of three years imprisonment. 

How Malta's criminal code defines trading in influence.How Malta's criminal code defines trading in influence.

Continuing, Borg said he is “morally convinced” Transport Malta acted fairly, and would not like to think otherwise. 

“I am sure examiners gave a pass to those who deserved it, as per their testimony in court, and as the messages show”. 

Examiners have testified in court about the pressure they felt to pass selected candidates.Examiners have testified in court about the pressure they felt to pass selected candidates.

Borg further thanked his customer care team for always offering an excellent service when he was the minister responsible for transport. 

“We need to keep listening to people and working on their complaints, in the transport sector and other sectors,” Borg concluded. 

On Sunda afternoon, he repeated his message in a post on Facebook.

Well-oiled machine

The scheme appeared to function with industrial efficiency.

Borg’s canvasser and advisor Jesmond Zammit alone, within a seven-month period in 2021, passed on the names of over 60 people to Mansueto. 

Zammit would simply send the Transport Malta official a photo of the candidate’s learner permit, which showed the time and date of the person’s test. 

Borg’s canvasser would frequently send Mansueto reminders on the day of the candidate’s test, with Mansueto replying with a simple “ok” or “pass”, to show the candidate got their licence.

Some of those people hailed from areas like Żebbuġ and other areas from within Borg’s constituency. 

Ian Borg's canvasser Jesmond Zammit would simply send Clint Mansueto a photo of the candidates' learner permit, which includes the date of their test.Ian Borg's canvasser Jesmond Zammit would simply send Clint Mansueto a photo of the candidates' learner permit, which includes the date of their test.

Mansueto once even grumbled when a batch of candidates from outside Borg’s constituency were referred to him by someone. 

“Lots of people are not even from the district”, he said in one March 2021 chat with his Transport Malta superior Pierre Montebello

Requests were coming in from the 'very top'.

Both Mansueto and Montebello hail from Borg’s Dingli hometown, which forms part of the minister’s electoral district. 

Montebello acted as Transport Malta’s main contact point with the police during the probe and testified in the case against his subordinate as a prosecution witness. 

‘From OPM’

Another person regularly in contact with Mansueto about driving candidates was Glorianne Micallef Portelli

Micallef Portelli was, and still is, Borg’s head of his ministry’s customer care department. 

WhatsApp chats show that between 2019 and 2021, Micallef Portelli regularly passed on the ID card numbers of specific candidates to Mansueto before their tests. 

She emphasised in one October 2019 chat how a candidate who had already failed the test three times had been referred to her “from OPM”. 

On the day of the test, Mansueto apologetically told Micallef Portelli that the candidate had failed yet again. 

“Almost had a collision whilst merging from a roundabout and a similar event was evidenced whilst merging from another junction in Gwardamanġa... Sorry Glorianne he’s a killer,” Mansueto said. 

One candidate pushed by the ministry was described as a 'killer'.

It wasn’t all bad news for candidates referred to Mansueto by Borg’s customer care official. 

“Good morning…You had someone called [candidate’s details redacted]…you mentioned her to me a while ago…she passed today,” a January 2020 message from Mansueto reads. 

“Yes….I know about her. Finally. THANK YOU 💪,” Micallef Portelli replied. 

Hundreds of names of driving test candidates were passed on to Mansueto. Photo: Chris Sant FournierHundreds of names of driving test candidates were passed on to Mansueto. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The pattern continued throughout the rest of that year. 

“Hi Clint – this is the daughter of a friend of ours, who helps us. [candidate’s details redacted]. She has already done the test twice and didn’t pass – can we help? She’s doing the test again on Saturday,” Micallef Portelli wrote. 

“In my hands,” Mansueto replied. 

On the day of the candidate’s test, Mansueto replied to the original message from Micallef Portelli about the candidate with the words: “All good…happy weekend”.

Another member of Borg’s customer care team, who no longer works for his ministry, even asked Mansueto whether one candidate was fit to be on the road. 

“[Candidate’s details redacted]…we have a comfortable PASS,” Mansueto said in an August 2019 message. 

“Really?...did he deserve it or not”? the customer care official asked Mansueto.

Mansueto replied that the candidate had not done too bad, but lacked experience on powerful motorcycles. 

“Good. What’s important is that he’s done. It’s his problem now,” the official replied.

Pass for ‘really hopeless’ candidate

Mansueto joked in a chat with another of Borg’s ministry officials, Antonella Micallef Agius, that a candidate whose details she passed on to him was particularly bad.  

Customer care official Antonella Agius Micallef with Ian Borg.Customer care official Antonella Agius Micallef with Ian Borg.

The candidate was due to sit for a professional competence exam, which is needed for drivers of light passenger vehicles. 

“Pass... I’m really good🤣,” Mansueto said in the message to Micallef Agius, in which he described the candidate in question as a “really hopeless” man in his 60s.  

“So he passed then 😉,” Micallef Agius replied.

“Well he passed through the door,” Mansueto quipped back. 

Being 'hopeless' was not necessarily an obstacle.

In another message, Micallef Agius asked Mansueto to help a candidate who had already sat for her test twice. 

“Please try help me out. She’s Wefi’s niece. Good day,” Micallef Agius wrote. 

Wefi is the nickname of then-junior minister Chris Agius, who served within Ian Borg’s ministry. 

“Ok, we will try our best as always,” Mansueto replied. 

Contacted for comment, the Labour MP said he and his family have been good friends with Micallef Agius and her family for years.  

Agius said he never knew his niece had failed her driving exam, as he knows her to be very diligent in whatever she does. 

“So it’s news to me that she failed, and twice,” Agius said, by way of comment. 

The test details of Chris Agius' niece, as sent to Clint Mansueto.The test details of Chris Agius' niece, as sent to Clint Mansueto.

Micallef Agius would also regularly badger Mansueto to “speed up” the process to give a test date to preferred candidates. 

None of Borg’s ministry officials replied to Times of Malta’s request for comment. 

While those applying for a test date normally had to wait months on end, candidates who were referred to Mansueto by government officials were often able to secure a date within weeks. 

This even led Mansueto to express his frustration at how “the ministry” was constantly taking up slots for driving tests. 

“I’m fed up of trying. I had seven slots and the ministry swallowed them up in two days,” Mansueto said in a December 2019 message to Gilbert Agius, a Transport Malta deputy chief officer for the Land Transport directorate

Test date slots were in high demand from Ian Borg's ministry.
 

A who’s who of Labour

Agius too would pass on names of Labour high-flyers to Mansueto. 

In a March 2019 message, Agius gave Mansueto the test time and date of “Minister Cardona’s wife”. 

“She’s at 12pm please,” Agius said. 

“We will try our best,” Mansueto replied. 

Soon after the test time, Mansueto messaged back: “Cardona ok”. 

A helping hand for Chris Cardona's wife?

When contacted by Times of Malta, Cardona said he remembers casually mentioning his wife’s test over a lunch where Agius was present. 

“However, my wife didn’t need any assistance as she had been driving with a valid international foreign driving licence for 20 years.

Cardona said that, moreover, his wife took driving lessons in Malta in preparation for the driving exam, and successfully passed both the theory and practical tests. 

Agius would also pass on the names of candidates referred to him from the Office of the Prime Minister, according to the chats. 

“Tomorrow at 7am from opm vvip client,” an August 2019 message from Agius to Mansueto reads. 

Gilbert Agius.Gilbert Agius.

The following month, Agius gave the details of yet another candidate to Mansueto. 

“Important because this is from OPM,” Agius said.  

In March 2020, Agius wanted to know why two particular candidates had failed. 

Silvio Grixti asking,” Agius said. 

Grixti, an ex-Labour MP, has already been implicated in a disability benefit racket geared towards helping Labour voters claim benefits they were not entitled to. 

The former MP was mentioned in another June 2020 message between Agius and Mansueto. 

“[Candidate’s details redacted]. 5pm. Important the test is today. Silvio Grixti sent me this,” Agius wrote. 

Mansueto replied that being told about candidates on the day of their test is a problem… “but we will try”. 

Grixti did not respond to a request for comment.

On his part, Agius categorically denied any wrongdoing when contacted by Times of Malta.

"Moreover, I am sure that you appreciate that in these circumstances and given that the case against the person accused mentioned in your email is still sub- judice, I feel that at this juncture it is inappropriate and incorrect to comment any further," Agius said. 

The name drops from Agius continued throughout 2020. 

“[Candidate’s details redacted]. Gavin Gulia son,” Agius wrote. 

Gulia is also an ex-Labour MP who now chairs the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA)

“I have been driven crazy about this test…I know about it, and I don’t know who hasn’t messaged me about it,” a frustrated Mansueto replied. 

Gulia said he had informed Gilbert Agius about his son's test 'out of courtesy', having previously complained to him about delays. Photo: Matthew MirabelliGulia said he had informed Gilbert Agius about his son's test 'out of courtesy', having previously complained to him about delays. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

When contacted, Gulia said: “Accurate scrutiny of the text you quoted from me merely confirms that I had simply informed Mr Agius out of courtesy that my son was doing the test, as I previously queried the undue delay to be called for a driving test. 

“I merely informed him without asking for any favours or preferential treatment,” Gulia said. 

Ten days later, Agius said he needed an “urgent test date” for the son of “MTA CEO.” 

The ID card provided matches of ex-MTA CEO Johann Buttigieg’s son. 

Buttigieg did not respond to a request for comment.

‘I want to win his vote’ 

Ray Mizzi, a Labour canvasser who worked as a customer care official in the Prime Minister’s office at the time of the chats, made no attempts to hide his intent when passing on the name of a specific candidate to Mansueto. 

“This is my daughter’s partner’s cousin and I want to win his vote. His mother is with us,” Mizzi says in a February 2021 message. 

Mansueto response: “Viva il Labour dejjem!”

“Always,” Mizzi replied.  

In previous messages, Mizzi had described the candidate as needing help in his theory test, as he does not know how to “read or write”. 

Ray Mizzi (right) was an OPM customer care official at the time of the chats.Ray Mizzi (right) was an OPM customer care official at the time of the chats.

Mansueto set up a theory test for the candidate, warning Mizzi “to not say a word to anyone” about the matter as it could lead to trouble. 

“They will know about him. He just has to tell them he has an appointment,” Mansueto said in the message. 

Mizzi passed on over 20 names to Mansueto between June 2018 and October 2021. 

In January 2020, Mizzi referred one candidate who he said was from “Michael Falzon’s district”. 

“She applied for the test, maybe we can speed things up for her,” Mizzi said in the message to Mansueto. 

‘Only his mother is with us!’

Another message by Mizzi about a candidate is laced with partisan overtones about the candidate’s political affiliations.

“[Candidate’s details redacted] motorcycle test. Can they give him a date please, he’s from San Gwann,” Mizzi said in a December 2020 message. 

An exasperated Mansueto replied that the person had already contacted several other people asking for help. 

“I don’t know who he is, it was sent to me from Michael Falzon’s ministry,” Mizzi replied. 

“Ray, he has been contacting loads of people…Sorry I can’t give him a date for now…the holidays are coming up, lots of examiners are on leave and schools are on shut down.” 

“He even contacted Ian,” Mansueto said of the candidate. 

Ray Mizzi pictured with Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon.Ray Mizzi pictured with Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon.

Despite saying he did not know the candidate, the conversation soon turned to the candidate’s politics. 

“Ignore him my friend…No worries, especially seeing that he probably isn’t with us. Fuck him…only his mother is with us! His father and sister are unknown, as is he,” Mizzi said. 

When contacted, Mizzi, who now works as an aide to Falzon, said he always carried out his duties in good faith and without any malicious intent. 

“My job as a customer care officer is to assist persons who come forward with queries.

“I want to emphasize that I was never asked to give my version during the investigations. Nevertheless, since I fully respect the ongoing sub-judice court case, I will not comment any further,” Mizzi said. 

Rachel Debono, the prime minister’s personal assistant, was one of those who would regularly pass on lists of candidates who should be given preferential treatment. 

Debono, who at the time of the chats was an assistant to then Transport Malta chairman Joseph Bugeja, regularly hammered home the importance of certain candidates promptly being given a date for their tests, as well as “helping” them in those same tests. 

“Clint, this person is a friend of the cman [chairman] and [is] always with the minister. Is there a chance please? And we take care of her?,” Debono wrote in one December 2019 message to Mansueto. 

In another message, Debono told Mansueto to note down the particulars of a candidate earmarked for preferential treatment. 

“Just take note of his name, for when his test date comes up. So we take care of him,” Debono instructed Mansueto in a message sent in February 2021. 

“Please take care of them. They have been told to go on their own to the test, without their instructor,” Debono said in the July 2019 WhatsApp to Mansueto, in which the details of two candidates were given. 

Rachel Debono indicated which candidates should be 'taken care of'.

In a chat the previous month, Mansueto had given the following explanation about why a certain candidate had not been given a pass.

“Rachel he stalled the car multiple times, braked abruptly and almost got smashed in to, plus his instructor was with him,” Mansueto wrote. 

Debono told him “not to worry”. 

“Everyone gets what they deserve. He can go for the test again if he likes.” 

Mansueto replied by thanking Debono for understanding “our limited span of control is [sic] such circumstances.”

When contacted, Debono told Times of Malta she is not in a position to confirm or otherwise the veracity and the authenticity of the exchanges, as she was not provided with a “true copy thereof”. 

“I, however in any case strongly rebut your assertions that I, in any manner, facilitated what you refer to as a ‘scheme’ or that I was ever involved in assisting any candidate to pass his driving test in any irregular manner. I am totally extraneous to such allegations,” Debono said. 

‘We need her vote’ 

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri’s chief of staff was another official who did not hide his intent in the chats. 

In one chat, Buhagiar left little doubt about why he wanted a certain candidate to be helped. 

“[Candidate’s details redacted] Time 12.30pm…” 

We need her vote. She’s important because she’s a delegate”, Buhagiar told Mansueto in a February 2019 message. 

'We need her vote,' Michael Buhagiar said of one candidate.

The candidate, according to the message, was due to sit for a certificate of professional competence exam the next day. 

Mansueto advised that it would perhaps be best if she didn’t turn up for the exam, as a “big group” was set to sit for it that particular day. 

The next day, Mansueto sent Buhagiar a message saying: “I helped her as much as I could”. 

This was followed up by a message a few days later, confirming the candidate passed the exam. 

The messages show that between 2018 and 2021, Buhagiar sent Mansueto around 50 names. 

These ranged from people who needed specific licenses for their job with the Civil Protection,  to Buhagiar flagging the test date of his own son to Mansueto. 

“[Name redacted] Buhagiar [ID card redacted] 

“His driving test is on 15 October. This is my son. Thanks,” the message, sent in September 2020 reads. 

The messages show how Mansueto would regularly bump chosen candidates up the waiting list for a test date, a practice that the former Transport Malta official emphasised also needed to be kept hushed. 

In a July 2021 message, Mansueto said that a candidate previously referred to him by Buhagiar had been given a test date for the theory exam on July 27. 

Over 50 names were passed on to Clint Mansueto by Michael Buhagiar.Over 50 names were passed on to Clint Mansueto by Michael Buhagiar.

“Keep it low profile please, because we are giving appointments for September at the moment…”, Mansueto said. 

When contacted, Buhagiar said that as head of the Gozo Ministry’s secretariat, one of his duties is to hear out complaints referred to him, “without any distinction”. 

Buhagiar said it is his duty, as well as the duty of all public officials, to address any complaints that are the result of “departmental inefficiencies”. 

“You may also not be aware that these inefficiencies had led to a situation where Gozitans had to wait a substantial number of months before being able to sit for the relative theory/practical exams, some of which are only held in Malta.

“Many a time, this was in turn affecting their prospects and daily lives. Bearing this in mind, I can easily confirm that I have done my best to try to address these issues,” Buhagiar said. 

He added: “I can also confirm in the most absolute of terms that at no point in time did I request that any person who did not qualify for the attainment of a driving license should be given one.”

‘You should keep a notebook’

The chats point towards higher-level Transport Malta officials also funneling names to Mansueto. 

Pierre Montebello, Transport Malta’s chief officer for land transport, frequently sent Mansueto details of candidates who should be given special treatment. 

'Keep a notebook' Pierre Montebello told his subordinate.'Keep a notebook' Pierre Montebello told his subordinate.

Montebello even appeared to give Mansueto some advice about how to deal with the deluge of names. 

“It would be better if you keep a notebook just for this. (If you don’t already have one) :)”, Montebello told Mansueto in a message, after providing him with the name of yet another candidate who should be “taken care of”. 

Mansueto responded by sending his superior a photo of a red diary. 

Some 200 names were reportedly found in Mansueto’s diary when police investigators descended on his Transport Malta office in October 2021. 

Clint Mansueto dutifully sent a picture of his notebook to his boss.Clint Mansueto dutifully sent a picture of his notebook to his boss.

Coming from ‘high up’

Montebello badgered Mansueto to expedite the test dates for specific candidates, the chats show. 

“This one is coming from high up…”, Montebello said of one candidate who was seeking a new test date after failing her exam. 

“Remember she is the one who was going to run someone over on a zebra crossing… 🤣,” Mansueto said in reply to the May 2021 message from Montebello. 

Montebello said many requests to help candidates were coming in, with some of the requests coming from “the very, very top”. 

Chats show that as early as 2020, Mansueto was getting nervous about the number of candidates being given preferential treatment when it came to test dates. 

“We have a problem if we keep on going at this rate, without any control,” Mansueto cautioned as Montebello bombarded him with four more names of candidates. 

“You have four…:)” Montebello replied. 

‘Word starting to spread’

Mansueto appeared to be similarly worried about the amount of candidates Montebello expected to receive “help” during their theory tests. 

“Pierre, at this rate I’m going to have problems… You need to give me time, so there won’t be too many at the same time…because word is starting to spread”, Mansueto warned in October 2020. 

Clint Mansueto warned his boss how things were spiraling out of control.

Montebello appeared to become increasingly cautious about what he put down in the WhatsApp chats during the months leading up to Mansueto’s arrest. 

By that stage, Montebello had been acting as Transport Malta’s liaison with the police to aid their probe into the racket. 

In October 2021, Montebello sent Mansueto pictures of four people’s identity cards. 

The message accompanying the text said: “ When are these coming up. Kindly treat as urgent. Not saying more here…thx”

When contacted by Times of Malta, Montebello said it would not be opportune to comment given ongoing court proceedings. 

He assured that Transport Malta had collaborated and worked “hand-in-hand” with the police on the case. 

“I personally had worked for months with the police on this, long before people were charged,” Montebello said. 

‘His father is the PM’s driver’ 

Donald Gouder, a canvasser for Ian Borg and Transport Malta’s deputy officer within the corporate services directorate, badgered Mansueto when an ‘important’ candidate was due to sit for his or her test. 

In June 2020, Gouder informed Mansueto that he had received a message from Minister Anton Refalo about a candidate who had already failed the driving test twice in Gozo. 

“Can we help out please. Thanks,” the message from Gouder to Mansueto read. 

“In my hands Donald…” the reply read.  

Another message from Gouder highlighted the connections of a certain candidate seeking a test date. 

“His father is the driver of Robert, the prime minister.” 

The son of Robert Abela's driver was mentioned in one chat.

Mansueto promptly came back with a test date, also assuring that he had “taken note of it”. 

The following year, in February, Gouder passed on the name of Refalo’s son.

Refalo did not respond to a request for comment.

Besides pointing out that the candidate was Refalo’s son, Gouder also highlighted that he would be sitting for his theory exam that very same day. 

“Ok noted,” Mansueto replied. 

In another message to Mansueto about Refalo’s son, Gouder emphasised: “It is important that if possible, we help him”. 

The chats between Gouder and Mansueto also give insight into growing concerns that people had caught on to the racket. 

Two months before his arrest, Mansueto told Gouder that Pierre [Montebello] and Ian [Borg] held an “urgent meeting” about an anonymous letter containing corruption and discrimination claims in the licensing process. 

Donald Gouder is facing charges in connection with Clint Mansueto's promotion.Donald Gouder is facing charges in connection with Clint Mansueto's promotion.

The letter did not appear to stem the flow of candidates needing “help,” as Gouder continued to pass on details of candidates to Mansueto in the intervening two months. 

Gouder is facing charges for issuing a Transport Malta vacancy tailored-made to promote Mansueto and give him more power within the authority. 

He did not reply to a request for comment. 

The TVM chairman 

Mark Sammut, a former Transport Malta official, is yet another prominent name to feature in the Whatsapp chats. 

The chats show that between 2018 and 2021, Sammut, who now chairs the national broadcaster TVM, passed on names of candidates to Mansueto. 

“[Name, ID card and telephone number redacted]. Car test tomorrow :)", Sammut says in a June 2018 message. 

The reply from Mansueto, which came in a minute later simply reads: “In my hands”. 

The following day, Mansueto confirmed to Sammut that everything went “ok” with the test. 

Sammut would frequently demand that Mansueto give “urgent” test appointments to certain candidates, effectively bypassing the normal channels ordinary candidates have come to expect. 

PBS chairman Mark Sammut.PBS chairman Mark Sammut.

“When you can please check regarding the test I spoke to you about the name is [name and ID card redacted]” Sammut said in another June 2018 message 

When Mansueto informed him they were still working on processing some documents “ASAP,” Sammut got back to him demanding a test date “within an hour”. 

Fourteen minutes later, Mansueto messaged back with a test date that was just five days away. 

Sammut on occasion expressed frustration when Mansueto failed to immediately comply with his demands. 

When in August 2019 Sammut demanded an “urgent app[ointment]” for a candidate, Mansueto said the matter was also dependent on the motoring school playing ball. 

“Before u found solutions for me. Don’t find an issue with this one pls,” Sammut fired back. 

The following month, Sammut Mansueto the name and ID card of a candidate. 

“Tomorrow. Please,” the message read. 

Mansueto replied with a simple: “Noted.” 

When contacted, Sammut denied ever passing on names of candidates to Mansueto, or any other Transport Malta official, with the intent of influencing the outcome of their theory or driving tests.  

“The specific instances you mentioned are either taken out of context or are entirely false. 

“I have always conducted myself with the utmost integrity and any insinuation otherwise is baseless and defamatory. 

“I expect you to uphold the standards of responsible journalism and not propagate stories you clearly know to be false”.

Sammut did not respond to follow-up questions about which of his chats he felt were “taken out of context” or “entirely false”.

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