Economy Minister Chris Cardona has so far failed to explain his frequent solo travels abroad on official business and why he decided not to have any of his ministry officials accompany him.

An analysis by The Sunday Times of Malta based on information he presented in Parliament, shows that Dr Cardona has been going abroad frequently on ministerial trips, alone.

The only reason given in Parliament justifying these solo trips, some of them on weekends, was to take part in “business meetings”.

The trips, usually short, have taken the minister to Russia, Ukraine, Dubai and Monaco, among other places.

Asked to givea breakdown of the meetings he held during these trips, whom he met and whether a public official from an overseas Maltese embassy accompanied him during the meetings, Dr Cardona did not reply to the newspaper.

Ministers are usually accompanied by at least one official

Ministers are usually accompanied by at least one official from their private secretariat or a public officer during official travel abroad. In many cases, ministerial delegations are composed of more than two people including the minister.

The official accompanying a minister normally takes minutes of what was discussed, for public record.

It is not yet known whether any record has been kept of Dr Cardona’s frequent solo visits and whether it was the minister himself who took notes at these meetings.

According to the Ministerial Code of Ethics, ministers have to seek the permission of the Prime Minister before going abroad on official duty and have to send a report of the meetings held to the Cabinet Office after each and every visit.

Observers have told The Sunday Times of Malta that the frequent trips abroad by Dr Cardona alone to conduct official business are “very abnormal”, even by Maltese standards.

One such visit took place between December 29, 2014 and January 8, 2015 to Russia and Ukraine during the Christmas holiday season.  Also, a particular weekend visit to Monaco in 2015 cost taxpayers almost €11,000.

Dr Cardona’s overseas travels have made the headlines in the past. Assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had alleged that during a visit to Germany in January 2017, Dr Cardona visited a brothel, a claim which was vehemently denied by Dr Cardona and his advisor Joe Gerada. Both Dr Cardona and Mr Gerada instituted libel proceedings against Ms Caruana Galizia.

Another trip, to Dubai in 2015, was highlighted by the National Audit Office for the hundreds of euros spent on the mini-bar by the ministerial delegation. It later resulted that it was the minister’s then chief of staff who had racked up the bill on alcohol and was asked to reimburse the costs to the government.

The Economy Minister’s trips

Date Destination Reason given by Minister Expense
Feb 09-11, 2014 Ukraine Business meetings €663
Feb 12-15, 2014 London Business meetings €2,244
March 03, 2014 Paris Meetings in Paris €1,153
July 03-04, 2014 Frankfurt Business meetings €1,225
July 25-25, 2014 London Business meetings €1,425
Sept 04-06, 2014 Monaco Business meetings €1,860
Dec 01-02, 2104 London Business meetings €1,932
Dec 29, 2014 – Jan 8, 2015 St Petersburg/Kiev Business meetings €1,247
Feb 05-08, 2015 Budapest Business meetings €3,394
April 02-05, 2015 Dusseldorf Business meetings €2,229
April 15-18, 2015 Kiev Business meetings €2,525
May 22-25, 2015 Monaco Business meetings €10,951
June 19-24, 2015 Ukraine Business meetings €4,245
Aug 03-06, 2015 Turkey Business meetings €2,790
Sept 09-12, 2015 Abu Dhabi Business meetings €2,881
Dec 16-20, 2015 Odessa Business meetings €4,479
Mar 24-27, 2016 Warsaw Business meetings €3,379
Sep 20-24, 2016 Dubai Malta Day and various business meetings €7,182
Nov 24-27, 2016 Dubai Business meetings €5,997
Sept 01-04, 2017 Milan Business meetings €2,396