Chris Fearne has become the target of scurrilous manifestly false accusations. In one week, two separate news articles levelled serious accusations against his campaign manager, Carmen Ciantar and her daughter, Celine.
The two publications, one in an obscure Ukrainian website and the other in an unimpressive Pakistani newspaper, are riddled with glaring errors. It is abundantly clear the allegations are fictitious. This is an amateurish attempt to assassinate Fearne’s character.
Yet, his own party failed to issue a statement condemning these malevolent attacks. Labour has been conspicuous by its silence. Despite the manifest falsity of the allegations, Fearne’s own party left him to face the music alone. How different Labour responded when the Panama Papers provided credible evidence of Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s nefarious activities.
It’s not just the party that left Fearne vulnerable. Robert Abela simply washed his hands. The prime minister had every opportunity to defend his deputy. Abela must know those publications are seriously dodgy. He knows those claims are manifestly unfounded. As a lawyer, it must be clear to him that neither publication provided a shred of evidence to back the allegations.
Abela is cherishing the moment. He must be savouring Fearne’s discomfiture. “I will leave it in the hands of the magistrate. I use the same principle I’ve always used. I leave the inquiring magistrate to lead the investigation with serenity and without interference.”
Abela had no qualms interfering by shamelessly condemning the inquiring magistrate when his friend, Joseph Muscat’s home was searched. He felt no pangs about destroying the magistrate’s serenity with his hostile attack on her for seizing mobile phones. Abela defended Muscat but left Fearne to stew.
Apostrophe International alleged that Ciantar’s daughter received €3.2 million from the business partner of Leonid Levitin who obtained a Maltese passport. The article quoted Ukrainian journalist Tetiana Nikolayenka. But an online search for the journalist yields no results. The link to the article gives an “Error 404” result. The link to the website censor.net yields a prompt “Sorry, you have been blocked”.
The supposed author of the Apostrophe article is Ivan Troyanov but a search for him yields no results. Clicking on the e-mail link email@example.com only takes you to the Cyrillic version of the article.
The article refers to Jonathan Cardona as “a friend and associate of Chris Fearne”. But Cardona, Enemalta’s CEO, was never close to Fearne. He was close to Muscat, who was his classmate. Cardona was involved in Muscat’s leadership campaign. He was photographed celebrating with Muscat when the Egrant inquiry concluded.
The article states that Fearne worked for “Minister for Energy and Health Konrad Mizzi, whom the US publicly banned him (sic) from entering for his involvement in significant corruption”. It falsely claims that Ciantar’s daughter “was appointed to senior government positions from the student desk despite her lack of experience”. Fearne foolishly appointed her to the Treatment Abroad Committee but that hardly counts as a “senior government position”.
That article also claims Fearne “was in charge of the passport programme between 2016 and 2017”. Abela knows that’s untrue. However, Abela wants “the magistrate to work in serenity”, lending credibility to the ludicrous allegations.
Chris Fearne’s testimony to the NAO humiliated Joseph Muscat- Kevin Cassar
The other article surfaced in Pakistan Daily. It claimed that Ciantar received €443,500 from a company linked to Vitals. It also claimed that €750,000 were transferred to a Swiss Bank Account linked to a Panamanian company, Global Finance Inc., which belonged to Ciantar. The article claimed that transaction reference numbers were provided in a leaked banking tranche.
Fifteen invoices were allegedly submitted by Ciantar between October 6, 2015 and February 25, 2016 but the newspaper failed to publish any of the invoices. The article even claimed that Mizzi is still an independent MP, casting further doubts about the credibility of the allegations.
These articles are clearly a malicious attempt to damage Fearne. The real question is not whether those articles are genuine – they’re not. The burning question is who is behind them? Who wants to damage Fearne? What has Fearne done to deserve this?
What Fearne has done is expose Muscat’s lies, repeatedly, and under oath. “The perspective provided by the Minister for Health starkly contrasted with the narrative put forward by the Prime Minister (Muscat),” the NAO commented. Fearne “asserted that cabinet was not aware of the implication of the agreement”, referring to Muscat’s scandalous €100 million Steward clause. Fearne demolished Muscat’s lies that “cabinet approved everything”. He indicated that “none of these agreements were brought to the attention of cabinet”.
Fearne contended that “he was not involved in any negotiations”. That destroyed Muscat’s lie that “whoever needed to be involved was involved”.
“A grimmer understanding was imparted to the NAO by the Minister for Health.” Fearne revealed how Muscat and Mizzi were negotiating with Steward to provide “additional payments by government to the concessionaire without any increase in services”.
Muscat “obscured visibility” to the NAO. The NAO complained about the “limited disclosures by the PM (Muscat)”. It lamented “the unorthodox dynamic that persisted between the PM (Muscat) and the MfT (Mizzi) to the detriment of the MfH’s (Fearne’s) ability to negotiate with SHC (Steward)”. Muscat, the NAO concluded, was “frugal” in his submissions. The NAO didn’t believe Muscat – “the NAO maintains an element of reservation regarding that stated by the PM (Muscat)”.
Fearne’s testimony to the NAO humiliated Muscat. It exposed his blatant lies. Muscat’s pride must have been dented. But Fearne must also have submitted evidence to the magisterial inquiry that has the power to order criminal prosecution.
If Fearne’s testimony before the magistrate is as damning as that to the NAO, it will be more than just Muscat’s pride that is dented. Fearne’s credibility must be destroyed if Muscat is to escape prosecution. And somebody is intent on doing just that.
In March 2023, Fearne announced that Labour had “learnt its lesson”. “We were and will continue to be a force for good,” he declared. Fearne should no longer be so sure.
Kevin Cassar is a professor of surgery.