It has emerged that Sai Mizzi Liang, the wife of Minister Konrad Mizzi, is still acting as Malta’s consul-general in Shanghai despite the government having appointed someone to replace her.

Ms Mizzi Liang featured in the Chinese media recently on a visit to Fudan University in Shanghai along with other women consuls in an event to mark International Women’s Day.

Last month, a picture in The Shanghai Daily showed her waving to reporters alongside her colleagues during the activity.

Ms Mizzi Liang’s appointment proved highly controversial. She was engaged by Malta Enterprise as its envoy to Asia in July 2013 on the direct instructions of the Prime Minister, known to be close to her husband, then the minister for health and energy.

She was given an unprecedented ambassadorial status and put on a €13,000-a-month financial package, which also included a free residence, full-time driver and paid private education for her two children.

The following year, Foreign Minister George Vella appointed Ms Mizzi Liang as Malta’s consul-general for Shanghai, also on the Prime Minister’s instructions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs bought a €2 million property in the cosmopolitan city to open a new state-of-the-art consulate headed by Dr Mizzi’s wife.

In February of last year, Dr Mizzi informed journalists that he and his wife had decided she would not be carrying on in China and would be returning to Malta that July.

She is seen at the Counsul-General daily, despite the termination of her contract

Subsequently, Malta Enterprise confirmed that she had terminated her employment on its behalf at the end of her term in August 2016, although it then extended her contract for a further six months, to the end of February 2017.

Last September, sources told this newspaper the Foreign Ministry had replaced her with another diplomat, Ruth Mary Farrugia.

And in February, the Economy Ministry said that Jennifer Chen May, a Chinese accountant who had worked in Malta for more than 20 years, was Ms Mizzi Liang as Malta Enterprise's representative in China.

Asked about Ms Mizzi Liang’s status following the emergence of the recent news reports from China, a spokesman for the Foreign Minister did not reply.

Sources close to the Foreign Office told The Sunday Times of Malta that “so far Ms Mizzi Liang has not returned to Malta and has been seen at the Maltese Counsul-General in Shanghai on a daily basis, despite her contract’s termination”.

Dr Mizzi had defended his wife’s controversial direct appointment as the Malta Enterprise envoy to Shanghai, saying he had nothing to do with it, as she was given the job directly by the Prime Minister.

And Economy Minister Chris Cardona, responsible for Malta Enterprise, said at the time that he had no idea how Dr Mizzi’s wife was engaged with the agency.

Last year, Dr Mizzi resigned as deputy leader of the Labour Party over his involvement in the Panama Papers, which exposed him as having opened a secret company in Panama.

In the wake of that development, he declared his wife would return to Malta that summer but has since then refused to take questions on the matter. However, earlier this year, following pressure from the media, the government admitted that Ms Mizzi Liang was still on the government payroll.

William Wait, the chairman of Malta Enterprise, said she had been given a six-month extension of her contract for the same financial package of €13,000.

“The extension is being made to enable you to close the existing projects and contracts and help in the transition to the new person who will be appointed instead of you,” he told her in a letter informing her.

(With additional reporting by Jacob Borg)

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