Minister gifts footballer friend €5,000-a-month sports contract

Daniel Bogdanovic, footballer in 2016 police bail inquiry, kicked up from Community Work Scheme to ministry contractor

Daniel Bogdanovic will be paid €5,000 every month to visit various government schools and come up with recommendations and initiatives to improve the national school of sport’s ability to produce elite athletes
Daniel Bogdanovic will be paid €5,000 every month to visit various government schools and come up with recommendations and initiatives to improve the national school of sport’s ability to produce elite athletes

On 10 January 2021, the education ministry communicated a vehement denial to MaltaToday that former Malta international Daniel Bogdanovic had been engaged as a member of Justyne Caruana’s personal secretariat.

The denial, from spokesperson Etienne St John, came on the same Sunday that a print story was published. The story was never published online due to the ministry’s protestations on its content, even in spite of St John’s characteristic economy when it comes to answering journalists’ questions.

Despite a government business card in Bogdanovic’s hands showing him as a “coordinating officer” within the education ministry, as well as a government directory entry showing him to be detailed as a “secretariat officer” to Caruana’s ministerial secretariat, St John insisted that ‘Bogy’ was not a person of trust to the Gozitan minister of education. Instead the former Malta international was just part of the union-run Community Work Scheme.

Justyne Caruana, a former Gozo minister, is herself a personal friend of Bogdanovic, and is today seen with him on social occasions.

The truth is: just 11 days after that ministerial denial, Bogdanovic’s trusting friendship with education minister Justyne earned him a lucrative contract. €15,000 for three months’ work on the national sports curriculum: no mean feat for someone with no pedagogical qualifications.

In a contract of service running from January 2021 to 20 April 2021, Bogdanovic, a former international footballer who is now the coach of Ghajnsielem FC in Gozo, will be paid €5,000 every month to visit various government schools and come up with recommendations and initiatives to improve the national school of sport’s ability to produce elite athletes.

For a former footballer who obtained government employment through the Community Work Scheme in 2019, an intake programme for unemployed workers that is managed by the General Workers Union, it has been a steep climb.

On this fact alone, Caruana’s spokesperson Etienne St John lied to MaltaToday when on 10 January he claimed the footballer was still on the CWS books and therefore “not employed by government”. CWS salaries are ultimately paid by the government, which is why the scheme serves as a roundabout way for ministers to recommend voters to the GWU for an entry-level government job. In October 2020, Bogdanovic’s CWS gross wage was €977. In December, a €540 allowance was added to his net takings. His job description was that of a “sports educator”.

Then on 21 January 2021, he got a new contract of service signed off by permanent secretary Frank Fabri: “to provide an overview of the modus operandi of the Skola Nazzjonali tal-iSport”, at €5,000 a month to assess the standards of academic and sports curriculum at the school; evaluate students’ selection criteria; carry out a survey with past and present students on their school experience; compare academic and sports curricula in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Cyprus with the Maltese; and issue recommendations to the Maltese ministry.

Bogdanovic Gozo police inquiry

There was a reason why news of Bogdanovic’s position inside the education ministry was first published by MaltaToday: the former footballer’s domestic violence arrest in 2016 and subsequent police bail was the subject of a government inquiry, launched after the story had been broken by MaltaToday.

The 2016 government inquiry was launched after MaltaToday reported a domestic violence case involving the then-Xewkija footballer. He had been kept overnight on a Saturday in a police cell, but was released from custody ahead of a 3pm Sunday kick-off even though a duty magistrate was expecting him to be arraigned under arrest on Monday morning.

MaltaToday reported that the Gozo police had been requested under pressure of a government official to release Bogdanovic in time for a Sunday match. 

A subsequent inquiry had confirmed that Bogdanovic was in fact released from arrest earlier than scheduled; that Assistant Commissioner Carmelo Magri had inquired about the arrest with arresting officer Edel Mary Camilleri; that Magri had himself been previously contacted by the Xewkija Tigers coach Jesmond Zammit– who was then an aide to parliamentary secretary Ian Borg; and that officer Camilleri consented to the release on request of her own superior, Superintendent Antonello Grech. 

A conversation between Grech and Camilleri, was described by the inquiry’s chairman, former AFM commander Carmel Vassallo, as having “sounded like a warning”. 

In his inquiry, Vassallo concluded: “It could be that the telephone calls from AC Magri and particularly the conversation [Camilleri] had with her superintendent, brought the inspector to decide on police bail. The lack of sensitivity in this decision is present, without doubt.” 

“The seriousness of the case and the sensitivity necessary in treating domestic violence demand caution. The Inspector felt that the Superintendent’s speech that Sunday morning sounded like a warning… So it made no sense in giving him police bail,” Vassallo pointed out, “if such a serious threat as [Bogdanovic] made also necessitated issuing a protection order. In these circumstances, the choice had to be either police bail and a notification to appear in court, or to keep him under arrest as agreed with the magistrate, 37 hours later on Monday morning.” 

Bogdanovic was later fined €1,000 for misuse of telecommunications equipment in 2017 and had his firearms licence suspended for failing to properly store a handgun and a rifle in the manner required by law.