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Former FIAU inspector Jonathan Ferris claims discriminatory treatment over sacking

A former FIAU manager sacked during his probationary period claims his removal was politically motivated

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
1 August 2017, 9:50am
File photo of Jonathan Ferris accompanying OLAF head Giovanni Kessler to a Maltese court in the case against Silvio Zammit
File photo of Jonathan Ferris accompanying OLAF head Giovanni Kessler to a Maltese court in the case against Silvio Zammit
A former police inspector whose employment at the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit was terminated during his probationary period, has asked a court to declare he was the victim of discriminatory treatment.

Jonathan Ferris, 44, was informed on 16 June 2017 by the FIAU director that his contract of service as manager in the FIAU’s financial analysis section would terminated during the probationary period.

Ferris claimed in his protest to the courts, that his termination of employment was politically motivated, referring specifically to comments made by finance minister Edward Scicluna in Brussels which Ferris said were “without doubt the politically partisan background that informed the actions of the [FIAU].”

Ferris was referring to Scicluna’s comments where he surmised that excerpts of FIAU investigations into the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi had been written with an intent to be leaked to the press in the run-up to the election.

Ferris said he had made detailed investigations during his time at the FIAU on politically exposed persons, suggesting that his sacking was an attempt to intimidate him or bring these investigations to fruition.

In an interview with The Times, Ferris claimed he was sidelined at the government’s anti-money-laundering agency (the FIAU) just days after a Russian whistleblower claimed the Panama company Egrant was owned by the Prime Minister’s wife.

The Egrant claim, reported by Daphne Caruana Galizia on her blog, has been vehemently denied by Joseph and Michelle Muscat and is the subject of a magisterial inquiry initiated by the Prime Minister.

On May 2, about a week and a half after the claim emerged, Ferris said he was informed by his superiors that he was being taken off all government investigations.

A leaked extract from an unfinished investigation had also alleged money was transferred to a Dubai company called 17 Black by the local company behind the LNG tanker powering the new gas-fired station. According to the extract, 17 Black was listed as the firm that would pay into the once-secret Panama companies owned by Schembri and Mizzi.

Both have denied the allegations, and the FIAU has said no conclusive report exists.

The police has denied Ferris’s claim that reports relating to Schembri were ignored by police. “Files were registered and processed as in similar cases,” the police said, adding that it was “shameful” that seeds of doubt about the corps' integrity were being sown “through non-existent facts.”

The FIAU also categorically denied the claims saying it always allowed its officials to carry out their work freely and with the independence their function required. It said it always carried out its duties according to law and in a correct manner and the FIAU management acted correctly and responsibly in its best interests and in the interests of society.

Ferris's protest was signed by lawyers Roselyn Borg, Andrew Borg Cardona, and Jason Azzopardi.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.