More than €650,000 were spent on promoting Malta’s Eurovision Song Contest entry as auditors investigate concerns that taxpayer funds were used to boost Destiny’s odds with bookmakers.
Minister Carmelo Abela has ordered an audit of the spend after he received reports that part of the allocated budget for the 10-day event was used to place bets on the Maltese performer.
Two sources close to the probe said the country dished out €650,000, split between €350,000 spent by the Malta Tourism Authority and a further €300,000 by the Public Broadcasting Service.
It is understood this amount is likely to climb to around €700,000, once the last spend is finalised.
The issue of possible financial mismanagement was flagged to Abela, the minister within the Office of the Prime Minister who is responsible for public broadcasting, by the board of the national broadcaster.
Sources said there had already been an informal admission from one PBS insider that part of the marketing budget was spent on financing foreign nationals placing bets on Destiny to win the competition.
The MTA is also believed to have gone considerably over budget on promoting the entry to the song contest, including spending on social media influencers, who uploaded content backing Malta.
Questions sent to the government about the audit, which is due to begin on Monday, have not yet elicited a response.
Amount likely to climb to around €700,000, once last spend is finalised
The talented Destiny Chukunyere, 18, was set to make a strong showing in the competition representing Malta with her song Je Me Casse.
She ranked third favourite with bookmakers for a win before heading into the final on Saturday night.
But despite winning her semi-final and placing third in the final jury vote, Malta lagged behind with audiences and received a disappointing 47 votes from European viewers during the televoting round.
Destiny’s seventh-place finish is the country’s best placing since 2005 but something of a disappointment for a singer who had ranked high among the favourites.
Italy, the bookmakers’ favourite going into Saturday’s grand final in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, emerged victorious on the night with the song Zitti e Buoni by Maneskin after securing a massive jump of 318 points in the public vote.
This is not the first time concerns have been raised about spending on the festival.
In 2016, a Times of Malta Freedom of Information request for a full breakdown of all spending by PBS and other government departments on the Eurovision was turned down.
The request had been filed after reports of a “limitless” budget allocation in the hopes of boosting singer Ira Losco’s chances.
At the time, leaked documents showed expenses exceeding €200,000, though the final figure was understood to be substantially higher.