Former Malta Enterprise official cleared of disclosing official secrets, on appeal

A former senior Malta Enterprise official who has been fined by the court of Magistrates for disclosing official secrets has been cleared on  appeal

Investigations led to Borg being charged with disclosure of official secrets
Investigations led to Borg being charged with disclosure of official secrets

A former senior Malta Enterprise official who had been fined by the court of Magistrates for disclosing official secrets, has had his conviction overturned on appeal after a judge ruled that the ‘official secret’ revealed was simply information he had received ‘in his line of business.’

In his role as a senior executive at Malta Enterprise, Ryan Borg had been responsible for the EU Energy Grants Scheme, processing quotations submitted by applicants for funding.

When his employment contract with Malta Enterprise had expired in March 2012, Borg had then started a job as personal assistant to the Director at solar panel supplier Di Natura Ltd, a company which had provided quotations to the EU energy grants for Endstone Ltd, a part of the Vivendo Group, during Borg’s tenure at Malta Enterprise.

Borg had sworn an oath preventing him from disclosing information gained by virtue of his former employment.

But it was alleged that not long after starting at his new position, Borg had made a phone call to Chris Gauci at the Vivendo Group, enticing him to accept the services and quotations offered by Di Natura Ltd. Borg denied this allegation.

The chief legal officer at Malta Enterprise had filed a police report about the alleged breach of an official secret by its former official.

Investigations led to Borg being charged with disclosure of official secrets. Borg denied the charges but was found guilty and fined €2,500 by a court in December 2017.

In the course of appeal proceedings, Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera had observed that the appellant had consistently denied ever trying to influence Gauci to take up Di Natura’s offer, noting that he had simply been acting upon the instructions of his new employer to follow up Endstone Ltd’s pending application for EU grants.

The court also pointed out that despite the many testimonies and documents put forward, the prosecution had failed to prove what the secret allegedly disclosed by the appellant was.

When still a Malta Enterprise official, the appellant had discussed the quotation, which had been the subject of meeting at the Malta Enterprise offices between Gauci, Di Natura Director Godfrey Formosa and two Malta Enterprise senior officials, including the appellant.

“It is somewhat strange that Gauci had felt the need to report the appellant” remarked the Court of Criminal Appeal, which concluded that there had been an incorrect appreciation of the facts of the case by the first court.

The ‘official secret’ had been handed over by Gauci himself to the appellant and the latter, even if not “ethically correct,” had followed up that information by contacting Gauci after taking up his new post at Di Natura.

The court ruled the information as constituting “no specific professional secret” but simply information received by the appellant “in his line of business.”

With regards to the man’s oath of office, the court observed that the prosecution had given the court a photocopy of a sworn declaration on a Malta Enterprise letterhead, but not the original.

In addition to not being in the form prescribed by law, the authenticity of this document had not been proved by the prosecution, noted the court.

The appeal was upheld and the judgment revoked in its entirety. Borg was cleared of criminal liability.

Lawyer Jason Grima was defence counsel.