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Minister’s email correspondence to Ferris was request for update on fraud investigation

Email correspondence sacked FIAU official claims was ‘ministerial interference’ was request for information for update on fraud investigation

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
2 December 2017, 9:09am
Carmelo Abela
Carmelo Abela
Foreign affairs minister Carmelo Abela has released email correspondence to LovinMalta.com to show he did not interfere in a police investigation run by former police detective Jonathan Ferris.

Ferris, a sacked FIAU official, claims the e-mails amounted to interference in a police investigation into a fraud case he was carrying out.

The exchange took place in May 2016 when Abela was home affairs minister.

Abela has however insisted he was seeking a progress update on a fraud case on behalf of a citizen, who called in to One Radio complaining to Abela about the police refusing to give him information on his case.

“Abela responded on air that his powers were limited to asking the police how the case was progressing and that he could not demand information about the investigation itself,” LovingMalta.com reported.

The email correspondence proceeded in this manher:

25 May 2016 Abela’s secretary Kevin Mifsud emails Ferris: “I would like you to give me an update about the case of Mr X* who was defrauded. Seeing as the case was mentioned in the media, I would like to pass on this information to the minister.”

26 May 2016 Ferris replies: “Case is still being investigated. It is a complex case and not just as Mr X is stating. Will update you in due course.”

Around half an hour later, Abela’s head of customer care Raymond Grech also emails Ferris with Abela and Mifsud in copy: “We know that this case is still being investigated. All we’re asking is a brief summary of what has been done so far regards this case. Whilst thanking you in anticipation, I’m looking forward to hear from you.”

Ferris refuses: “All I can tell you is that the case is still being investigated,” Ferris said. “Should the complainant request updates re. progress on his case, he is more than welcome to make an appointment and attend my office to discuss his queries.”

A few minutes later, Grech replies: “The minister has requested information about this case and not Mr X." 

Ferris had previously claimed the email in question was written in capital letters, although the published emails clearly show the conversation was civil and ended at this point.

Ferris also said this email exchange amounted to interference and that this was the reason he asked to be transferred to the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) where he took o the role of manager of the analysis section.

Ferris was sacked after the June 2017 election, with the FIAU now saying that the former police inspector fell below expectations and denying any politically motivated decision to dismiss him. Ferris was investigating allegations of money laundering related to claims by the former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova.

Ferris said Abela’s information proves the minister tried to interfere in an investigation he was conducting and that he refused to comply. 

“These sort of things shouldn’t take place and Carmelo Abela should be ashamed of himself,” he said. Ferris also has said previously that assistant police commissioner Ian Abdilla had urged him to comply and avoid a ‘diplomatic incident’ with the minister.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.