Updated 12.45pm - Added CSN statement

Former FIAU official Jonathan Ferris was prevented from taking a report calling for criminal action against Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi to court, MEPs visiting Malta heard last week.

The revelation came as MEP David Casa revealed yesterday that he was in possession of a “damning” report by the FIAU – Malta’s anti-money-laundering agency – which concluded that criminal action should commence against Dr Mizzi over his once-secret Panama company.

Four pages of the report were leaked on May 26, just days before the general election.

The leaked extracts showed the FIAU suspected that Orion Engineering Group, the local company linked to the LNG tanker, had transferred funds destined for Panama companies opened up by Dr Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

READ: The four-page FIAU report extract leaked last May

The funds were transferred to a Dubai-based company called 17 Black, which the FIAU said was listed as the target company for Dr Mizzi’s and Mr Schembri’s Panama companies.

The leaked extracts of the Konrad Mizzi report were given to the magistrate heading the Egrant inquiry, Aaron Bugeja, on May 29 by The Malta Independent’s former content director Pierre Portelli.

Mr Ferris told MEPs that he had been called in by Magistrate Bugeja to testify about the leaked contents of the report on May 31.

As he was preparing to leave the FIAU offices to go and testify, FIAU director Kenneth Farrugia came running up to him and told him not to take the whole report about Dr Mizzi to the court, Mr Ferris told the MEPs.

Mr Ferris claimed that he was instructed to only take the last four pages of the report to Magistate Bugeja.

The same things he told the MEPs are contained in his affidavit to the Industrial Tribunal where he is contesting his dismissal from the FIAU at the end of his probationary period last year. The Attorney General wants the affidavit expunged on national security grounds.

In a statement issued on Sunday morning, the FIAU acknowledged that Mr Ferris had been told not to show magistrate Bugeja the full working document. 

The inquiry, the FIAU said, was concerned with the four pages from the document that had been leaked. 

"Mr Ferris therefore had no justification whatsoever to take the whole working document to court thereby giving rise to the possibility of covering the tracks for anyone who may have stolen or leaked the whole working document now allegedly in the possession of MEP David Casa," the unit said. 

‘Strange’ meeting at the FIAU’s office

The former FIAU official, who was sacked less than two weeks after Labour returned to power on June 3, also gave MEPs grabs from CCTV footage taken during what he called a “strange” meeting at the agency’s Birkirkara office on May 30, the day before he was called to testify. The footage shows the FIAU’s director, deputy-director and senior analyst holding what Mr Ferris described as an after-office hours meeting with police superintendent Ian Abdilla, the lead officer in the Egrant inquiry.

In the footage, deputy director Alfred Zammit can be seen holding a red file, which Mr Ferris told MEPs he could identify as the high-priority file for the Mizzi report.

WATCH: MEPs leave Malta with furrowed brows amid talk of 'impunity'

He questioned how, when the FIAU’s director stopped him from taking the Mizzi file with him to court, the director already knew what Magistrate Bugeja had called him to testify about.

He flagged Mr Abdilla’s presence at the meeting as being odd, given his involvement in the Egrant inquiry (which is looking into allegations that $1 million were transferred to a secret Panama company owned by the PM’s wife).

Legal sources explained how magistrates call all the shots during an inquiry, meaning that no one can make a move unless authorised to do so.

Mr Ferris questioned whether the Egrant magistrate was aware Mr Abdilla may have been talking to FIAU officials about the Mizzi report, and whether the visit had been authorised.

Questioned by this newspaper about his presence at that May 30 meeting, Mr Abdilla said his position as police liaison officer to the FIAU required him to communicate with and visit the FIAU on a regular basis.

Asked if inquiring magistrate Bugeja had given him the go-ahead to discuss the leaked FIAU findings with the agency’s staff, Mr Abdilla said he was legally prohibited from disclosing any affairs in relation to ongoing magisterial inquiries.

“As such, any communications made with the inquiring magistrates also cannot be disclosed or disseminated.

“However please rest assured that my position as police liaison officer with FIAU has been disclosed to all inquiring magistrates, and I offered all my assistance in this respect to the same inquiring magistrates.”

In its Sunday morning statement, the FIAU said that both it and its police liason officer had no fixed office hours and that there was nothing secret or unusual about the meeting with Mr Abdilla. All FIAU employees, the unit said, were aware that their movements were recorded on CCTV. 

The CCTV still image Mr Ferris had provided was illegally downloaded from its computerised system, the unit said. 

All of the unit's officials, including its board of governors and director, were willing and able to answer any questions the inquiring magistrate might have, the unit said in a statement. 

‘Police unwilling to investigate’

Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar told MEPs last week the Mizzi report had not been passed on to the police by the FIAU. Asked if he had divulged the report’s contents to the Police Commissioner, Mr Abdilla said as liaison officer, he was legally prevented from divulging any information about FIAU investigations, including to his superiors.

Mr Ferris told MEPs that at that point, all FIAU employees were the subject of a separate magisterial inquiry about leaks of the agency’s reports.

Mr Abdilla, who was promoted from police inspector to superintendent and assistant commissioner in the space of 18 months, said he could only discuss FIAU matters with FIAU members until an FIAU report was submitted to the police for further action.

Two reports calling for criminal investigations against the Prime Minister’s chief of staff were passed on to the police, but no investigations ever took place.

German MEP Sven Giegold, one of the delegation probing the rule of law in Malta, said in a statement that the police and the attorney general had demonstrated an unwillingness to investigate and a failure to prosecute corruption and money laundering.

 “Publically available information and even reports by Malta’s anti-money-laundering body FIAU have repeatedly not triggered investigations. Individuals and financial institutions involved were not searched, evidence not gathered. “This protected high government officials such as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Minister Konrad Mizzi from prosecution as well as financial institutions such as Pilatus Bank and Nexia BT,” Mr Giegold said.

Yesterday afternoon, the FIAU issued a statement deploring Mr Casa’s “irresponsible statement which is untrue and solely intended to damage the credibility of the FIAU”.

The FIAU categorically denied his allegations and reiterated that there is no “final report”.

Mr Mizzi issued a statement denying all allegations made by Mr Casa.

Investigate FIAU - Civil Society Network

In a statement, the Civil Society Network called for an independent investigation into the various claims concerning the FIAU, saying these could not "be left unverified". 

The network called on MPs to present a motion to that effect if the Prime Minister had not ordered an investigation by noon on Tuesday.

It urged members of the public to attend a rally to be held at 4pm on Sunday in Valletta. Italian former anti-corruption prosecutor Antonio di Pietro will be the headline speaker. 

 

Timeline

May 26: Extracts of report on Konrad Mizzi leaked.
May 29: The leaked extracts are presented to Egrant magistrate Aaron Bugeja.
May 30: ‘Strange’ meeting at FIAU office.
May 31: Ferris stopped from taking full Mizzi report to magistrate.
Dec 2: MEP David Casa reveals report called for criminal action against Dr Mizzi. 

 

Contact Jacob Borg: 
jacob.borg@timesofmalta.com
PGP: http://bit.ly/2inPfKG

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