The police are sitting on incriminating evidence of serious fraud involving hundreds of thousands of euros alleged to have been committed by the Education Minister’s former canvasser, but say they are still investigating.
Meanwhile the man, Edward Caruana, a former manager at the Foundation for Tomorrows’ Schools, has been building a private block of apartments in Rabat unhindered and the construction is now nearing completion.
A few weeks ago, three former top officials of the government’s Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools made declarations to the police about the affair, this newspaper is informed.
They claimed that Mr Caruana used to solicit bribes from building contractors when he worked for the foundation as a manager in charge of school projects until he was transferred in August 2016.
The Sunday Times of Malta has also learnt that in September of last year, false invoices and other evidence of wrongdoing were presented to the police as part of a 200-page report on the case drawn up by former FTS CEO Philip Rizzo.
Yet, more than a year later, the police have yet to bring him to justice or even seize the apartment block, which police suspect may have been funded from the alleged bribes.
Asked to explain why Mr Caruana has not yet been arraigned in court, despite all the evidence that exists and following more than a year of investigations, the police said they were still looking into the case.
Mr Caruana is a former canvasser of Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, who after the 2013 election appointed him manager of school building projects at the FTS, as a person of trust.
The written declarations were made to Police Inspector Rennie Stivala by Mr Rizzo, his predecessor Anthony Muscat and former FTS official Pippo Giuliano. The three declared they were aware that Mr Caruana had on several occasions asked a contractor, Joe Carabott, for bribes.
Mr Rizzo wrote in his declaration that after receiving information about Mr Caruana, he went to meet Mr Carabott on the building site of a new school in Dingli to ask him what was going on.
“Carabott started crying and told me that he couldn’t afford to pay more money to Caruana, especially on this contract, as he did not have a high profit margin.”
Mr Caruana had also asked for a “container full of tiles”, according to what Mr Rizzo was told. All three officials reiterated that these claims were reported to the Education Minister.
In the document he presented to the police more than a year ago, Mr Rizzo says it was discovered that while acting as FTS manager of school building projects, Mr Caruana was building a block of apartments in Rabat privately.
It is known that he did not take out any bank loans to finance his project. Police investigators suspect that funds, material and labour originally destined for government school projects may have been diverted to Mr Caruana’s private project.
Meanwhile, the more than 10 residential units in the block are at an advanced stage as works have continued practically unabated despite the corruption claims.
Neighbours told this newspaper on condition of anonymity that Mr Caruana is regularly seen on site coordinating the works.
Mr Rizzo, who was the one to blow the whistle on Mr Caruana, has said Mr Bartolo had tried for weeks to dissuade him from reporting the case to the police after he reported his findings.
The minister at first denied the claim but later admitted he had not reported the case immediately as he wanted a “smoking gun.” However, after he received another report backing up Mr Rizzo’s claims, he disowned his former canvasser and removed him from the FTS.
Yet, Mr Caruana suspended himself on full pay and is still receiving his full salary and perks. This rare auto suspension was approved by the Attorney General.
Apart from being Mr Bartolo’s former chief canvasser, Mr Caruana is also the brother of Joe Caruana, Mr Bartolo’s former Permanent Secretary.
The latter was moved sideways to the Finance Ministry after the last election.