The police have seized documents and interrogated a number of people in their investigations into allegations of corruption and fraud at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools but, six months after the claims were made, there are no indications of any criminal charges being issued or arraignments being made.
The allegations are contained in a 200-page dossier submitted by the foundation’s former CEO Philip Rizzo.
Police sources said the report was handed over to the economic crimes unit on September 22, 2016 and included “unequivocal evidence” of corruption and abuse, including false invoices and receipts of hundreds of thousands of euros that were supposed to be spent on government schools but were unaccounted for.
The sources said the dossier mentioned a number of officials, including architects and contractors commissioned by the foundation as well as Edward Caruana, a former FTS official and a canvasser of Education Minister Evarist Bartolo.
Asked why no arraignments had been made yet, a police spokesman said that investigation were taking time “as these involve the analysis of hundreds of documents – a very lengthy and delicate process”.
“The police are still investigating this case actively and have seized various documents pertaining to this investigation, which are being analysed with the assistance of the IAID [Internal Audit Investigation Department]”, the spokesman said, confirming that a number of interrogations had been made.
“While no criminal actions have been taken to date and no arraignments have been made, the police still have to conclude this investigation before any criminal action is taken against anyone,” he added.
This newspaper is also informed that copies of the dossier have also been submitted to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, to the IAID, which falls under the Office of the Prime Minister, and to the Permanent Commission against Corruption.
On his resignation form the post of CEO at the FTS last December, Mr Rizzo accused Mr Bartolo of spending months trying to dissuade him from reporting Mr Caruana to the police.
The minister had refuted the claims and said he had been waiting for “a smoking gun” before reporting Mr Caruana to the authorities. He admitted that, following an internal probe, he had discovered “prima facie evidence” that Mr Caruana had committed irregularities.
In view of such evidence, Mr Bartolo said he reported the case to the police and issued instructions so that Mr Caruana would be transferred to another government department.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Caruana suspended himself on full pay and continues to receive a salary as FTS manager.
The lack of action by the police prompted the Opposition to raise the issue in Parliament. Insisting that Mr Bartolo had still to shoulder political responsibility over corruption claims committed under his watch and by his own canvasser, the Opposition’s spokesman on early and compulsory education, George Pullicino, asked whether there were any conclusions to the six-month long-investigation into the “scandal”.
“Can it be that the authorities are giving Mr Caruana some more time to be able to sell his apartments in Rabat,” Mr Pullicino asked.
It emerged that Mr Caruana, who is the brother of the permanent secretary at the Education Ministry, was building a block of flats in Rabat. In their investigation into the allegations made by Mr Rizzo, the police are known to be going through receipts connected to both FTS contracts and the Rabat structure.
Mr Pullicino warned that, according to Maltese laws, buildings found to be financed through corrupt practices could be confiscated by the court.
He said Maltese taxpayers were entitled to know how their taxes were being used and the police were in duty bound to proceed against those abusing of public funds.