No conflict in appointment of ambassador to Ghana, Standards czar says

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler, investigating a complaint filed by Anthony De Bono, Malta’s former ambassador to Jordan, concludes there was no conflict of interest in the appointment of the ambassador to Ghana in 2018

Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler
Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler

Updated at 6:48 pm with PN reaction 

There was no breach of ethics in connection with the appointment of Malta’s ambassador to Ghana, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has concluded.

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler had received a complaint filed by Anthony De Bono – former Maltese ambassador to Jordan appointed in 2010 – concerning the appointment of Jean Claude Galea Mallia as Malta’s Honorary Consul in Ghana and, later, High Commissioner to the same country.

De Bono said that in the summer of 2017 he had discovered that Galea Mallia was in a business partnership with Aaron Galea, a Maltese national resident in Ghana who was wanted by Maltese police in connection with allegations of fraud, and who was the subject of national and international arrest warrants.

Galea Mallia was already Malta’s Honorary Consul in Ghana at the time.

De Bono also claimed that Minister Carmelo Abela, who at the time was responsible for foreign affairs, should have informed Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee about the connection between the ambassador and the person sought by the police when he requested the Committee to consider the ambassador’s appointment in October 2018.

In his report published today, Hyzler said he could not investigate this allegation since the Standards in Public Life Act was not yet in force when the Committee considered the ambassador’s appointment.

However, Abela could later have recalled the ambassador, were this necessary on account of his business relationships. The Commissioner therefore focused his investigation on whether the Minister should have taken such action.

Hyzler found that it was true that the ambassador had been in business with a person who was sought by the Maltese police. On his appointment, however, the ambassador began divesting himself of his business interests in Ghana and keeping his distance from his former business partner.

He therefore concluded that the conflict of interest had been addressed and there was no reason for the minister to recall the ambassador. 

In his correspondence with Hyzler, Abela denied any knowledge of the partnership between the ambassador and the wanted person.

When it was pointed out to him that the partnership had been brought to his attention in the summer of 2017, Abela said he had forgotten the matter on account of the passage of time. The Commissioner accepted this explanation. 

In his report, Hyzler said the Ministry for Foreign Affairs should conduct more extensive due diligence on candidates before proposing their names to Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee.

He recommended that the due diligence should cover not only security-related issues but also candidates’ commercial interests and that the results of the due diligence exercise should be presented to the Committee.

The Ministry should also draw up a policy on whether ambassadors of Malta to other countries could have commercial interests in their host countries.

Hyzler also forwarded a copy of his case report to the police after noting that, as far as he could tell, the police were not informed that a person wanted by them was residing in Ghana.

Nationalist Party demands action  

Reacting to the report, the Nationalist Party (PN) called on the Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo to recall the current High Commissioner to remove any doubts surrounding the case.

It also said Minister Carmelo Abela had ignored a number of warnings on his wrong doing, and refused to take any action.

“He should shoulder the political responsibility,” he said.