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Police probe Caruana links between Rabat property and phantom Gozo works

Police probe into corruption allegations in Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools investigating serious discrepancies arising from works not carried out – but paid for by the FTS – at the Nadur and Victoria primary schools in Gozo in the summer of 2015.

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
12 December 2016, 7:02am
Police investigations in the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools scandal is focusing on a link between an extensive property in Rabat (pictured) built by former FTS procurement officer Edward Caruana, and his role in ordering works at schools in Gozo.
Police investigations in the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools scandal is focusing on a link between an extensive property in Rabat (pictured) built by former FTS procurement officer Edward Caruana, and his role in ordering works at schools in Gozo.
An ongoing police investigation in the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools scandal is focussing on a link between an extensive property in Rabat built by former FTS procurement officer Edward Caruana, and his role in ordering works at schools in Gozo.

The estimated worth of the Rabat property stands at around €2 million.

Though the police have not yet called Caruana in, they have actively investigated the serious discrepancies arising from works not carried out – but paid for by the FTS – at the Nadur and Victoria primary schools in Gozo in the summer of 2015.

Caruana’s property in Rabat was issued with a permit in June 2015 and consists of six apartments, a three-bedroom penthouse and a ground floor basement.

Notarial searches carried out by MaltaToday of the last three years indicate that Caruana did not take any bank loans on properties to finance his development. The searches shows that he only purchased a garage, for the value of around €36,000.

The police investigation stems from a report by the former FTS chief executive officer Philip Rizzo, who has alleged irregularities in the way direct orders were given by FTS and who, in email conversations with the education minister, suggested that Caruana did not have enough resources to finance such an expensive investment.

Caruana is understood to have been the reference point for the FTS in Gozo, where school staff who spoke to MaltaToday said that a majority of schools there have received unnecessary stock of school furniture from an Italian company linked to businessman Sandro Ciliberti.

One such example, the sources said, was extra furniture and equipment delivered to the Sixth Form in Victoria. The deliveries were made by Ciliberti’s companies.

An FTS tenderer who had complained with Education Minister Evarist Bartolo in April 2015 over procurement says that Ciliberi worked closely with Edward Caruana, a former canvasser and driver of Bartolo.

At the Gozo Sixth Form alone, Ciliberti invoiced over €514,000 through his companies Al-Nibras and Hangman, while the contractor who carried out the project was paid €462,000.

In 2015, Xewkija Gozitan contractor Giovann Vella had told Anthony Muscat, then CEO of the FTS, that Edward Caruana had asked him for €30,000 so that [Caruana] could request the quality assurance officer to certify the works and release the pending payments.

According to The Times, Muscat had reported this to Bartolo on 31 August, 2015. Caruana had then asked the police to institute criminal libel against Giovann Vella.

Caruana’s brother Joseph, the permanent secretary at the Ministry for Education, had told the court that he had not felt the need to inform the police of any allegations of corruption since his brother had filed a defamation case in court.

At the time, Bartolo said he was “monitoring the situation”.

Bartolo under fire for not having taken action earlier

A canvasser for Bartolo since 1992, Edward Caruana was the Education Minister’s personal driver before being appointed by the minister as a procurement officer, on a person of trust basis.

Caruana’s brother, Joseph Caruana, serves as permanent secretary within the same ministry and who was responsible for payments of direct orders originating from the FTS after these were endorsed by the responsible entity.

MaltaToday has revealed how Philip Rizzo, who was appointed CEO of the Foundation in April, resigned over allegations of abuse by Edward Caruana at the same foundation.

MaltaToday also revealed how warnings of serious problems at the FTS had been raised as early as April 2015, with the minister being warned over the familiarity between Edward Caruana and Ciliberti.

Faced by increased calls by the Opposition to shoulder responsibility, Bartolo this week tabled in parliament the email correspondence that passed between himself and Rizzo.

In one email, Bartolo pointed out: “No one came forward with any tangible proof. Had been promised before your time but none materialised.”

A complainant who had talked to Bartolo about the FTS procurement system, revealed to MaltaToday that he had sent emails to the minister, with material received on behalf of Ciliberti’s Italian supplier. The complainant had told Bartolo that the whole matter was “disgusting”.

From L-R: Evarist Bartolo, Joseph Caruana, Philip Rizzo and Sandro Ciliberti
From L-R: Evarist Bartolo, Joseph Caruana, Philip Rizzo and Sandro Ciliberti
Bartolo has defended his position by stating that he had taken action by removing Caruana from the foundation.

On his part, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has labelled Bartolo a hypocrite and asked him to shoulder political responsibility. Bartolo was the only outspoken critic of Konrad Mizzi during the Panama Papers revelations, having said that he would have expected Mizzi to resign for opening an offshore company in Panama.

The correspondence Bartolo tabled in parliament showed that in April and June 2016, Rizzo flagged dubious quotations submitted by Edward Caruana for works on Gozo primary schools and sent them to Bartolo who replied: “Let’s keep it up our sleeves. I would like to meet on this.”

In another email on the possible health risk posed by the artificial turf at Ghajnsielem School, Bartolo tells Rizzo not to believe one word of what Edward Caruana told him. “[…] We cannot his [sic] him run a parallel rogue operation that does not respect any procedures on how public money is spent. I would ignore him.”

Bartolo had also emailed Rizzo back in April, telling him that nobody – referring to Caruana – would enjoy immunity because he had worked for him politically since 1992. “Please understand that no one, no one, no one, enjoys immunity or is untouchable because he has worked for me politically since 1992. Understood?”

Then an email dated 10 September shows Rizzo disagreeing with the steps being taken by Bartolo to transfer Caruana, which was an indication that Bartolo was still unsure on whether to force Caruana to go.

“Transferring Edward with same incredibly high remuneration package is worse than doing nothing at all. All Gozo knows what he was up to… someone is going to ask from where during the last two years Edward got [circa] €400,000 to build a six apartment block in Rabat. Believe me, you’re all playing with fire with highly flammable material all around in each FTS project’s file.”

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...