Former FIAU official Jonathan Ferris has initiated legal action against the authorities, claiming that their failure to grant him whistleblower status is illegal.
He also claims that the way the authorities had treated him was in breach of his rights.
Mr Ferris made his claims in an application he filed in court against the Principal Permanent Secretary, Mario Cutajar, and Philip Massa, the head of the External Whisteblower Unit within the Prime Minister’s Office.
The application came after the unit ruled that Mr Ferris’s request would not be accepted because he had “failed to adhere to the dispositions of Protection of the Whistleblower Act”.
Mr Ferris claims he was fired from the Financial Intelligence and Analysis Unit (FIAU) because he dug too deep into government corruption allegations in the course of his investigations.
He explained how he was employed by the FIAU in November 2016. Among his duties, he was responsible for the Financial Analysis Section, mainly because of his expertise in the investigation of White Collar Crimes.
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He was meant to serve as a point of contact between the analysts conducting the investigations and those compiling reports which were then passed on to the police.
Mr Ferris, a former police inspector with the Economic Crimes Unit, explained that until the end of April 2017, he was supervising high-level investigations including those on members of the government or government officials.
However, following the announcement of the general election, he was removed from his post and was sidelined. After the election result was announced, his job was terminated a few days after Finance Minister Edward Scicluna “theorised” that the FIAU report were being written specifically to be leaked.
At the end of November 2017 he was called to testify before the PANA Committee and on December 1 he met a government official, Godwin Pulis, to start the process to be granted whistleblower status. Mr Pulis had then referred Mr Ferris to the External Whistleblower Unit.
Eventually he had his request turned down, with the unit saying that he had failed to qualify.
Mr Ferris said he was removed from the FIAU because he was carrying out his job and because he had reached conclusions in his investigations which were “politically uncomfortable” for the government. He said that had he been retained in his position he would not be whistleblowing but simply carrying out his duties as an FIAU investigator.
The need for protection came about after he was removed from his position, he said.
Mr Ferris claimed that the refusal to grant him whistleblower protection was in breach of the law, specifically the article which deals with administrative acts. He called on the court to declare the decision as null and void.
Moreover, he insisted that the administrative act which excluded him from being granted protection was in breach of his basic rights.
The application was signed by lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Andrew Borg Cardona.
Without whistleblower protection, Mr Ferris could face a five-year jail term and a €100,000 fine for blowing the whistle on any corruption he may have witnessed during his time at the FIAU. The law is very stringent about revealing any information about money laundering or investigations into money laundering.
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