Updated | Anton Refalo knew of whistleblower’s claims in November 2014

Gozo Minister brought to Malta on Sunday and hospitalised at Mater Dei after having suffered heart problems

Gozo Minister Anton Refalo
Gozo Minister Anton Refalo

Gozo Mnister Anton Refalo was aware of a whistleblower’s claims of being commissioned to carry out free construction works for Gozo constituents, MaltaToday can reveal.

After PN secretary general Chris Said had claimed that the whistleblower Joe Cauchi had informed him that the payments related to private work with private individuals in Gozo was being tackled by Gozo minister, MaltaToday yesterday asked Anton Refalo to comment.

Refalo said that after the contractor spoke to him, he lost no time to ask that the claims be looked into and ascertained.

“That was in November and the case today is in the hands of the police and may lead to the first whistleblower case according to the legislation enacted by the Labour government,” Refalo said.

The Gozo Minister is currently being treated at Mater Dei Hospital after he was brought there on Sunday. The minister was hospitalised after having suffered heart problems. It is understood that the minister is recovering well and is being kept under observation.

When MaltaToday broke the story, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said that he knew about the story from the newspaper itself. The next day, the police had interrogated various officials at the Gozo ministry. It is not known at what stage the investigations are.

Three Gozitan contractors have since come forward to substantiate claims that they were asked to carry out construction work for private residences or businesses by the Ministry of Gozo. MaltaToday has reported in previous editions the scam involving the Gozo ministry, where Anthony Debono, the husband of former Gozo minister Giovanna Debono, had a position of responsibility.

On Saturday, PN Secretary General Chris Said confirmed that he had been contacted by a whistleblower of works which the contractor called “works for votes.” Said also confirmed meeting the whistleblower and corresponded with him via emails when the latter approached him after the general election.

The PN secretary general also said the whistleblower had referred him to works carried out at Gharb, and after contacting mayor David Apap, Said said it resulted that the works were funded by the Ministry for Gozo and any pending payments should be issued by the ministry.

The email reached MaltaToday after Said addressed the news conference yesterday. The email by the whistleblower was one of the many pleas he has been making for payment for €50,000 in works commissioned by the Gozo ministry by private constituents. The devious scheme then claimed the works as being part of public projects.

Reacting to Cauchi’s email when contacted by MaltaToday, Chris Said said that what the email said was consistent with what he had already stated.

“First of all I would like to emphasize that Cauchio was asking my intervention for monites he was owed by third parties. The Gozitan contractor had complained and talked to me about works for Gharb mayor David Apap. I had spoken to the Mayor and he assured me that the works were commissioned by the Gozo ministry,” he said.

Said also said that he advised the contractor to seek legal advice, and that “at no point was there a need for me to inform the police authorities because I (Chris Said) had no proof of any abuse.”

Questioning whether it was true that the practice is still going on and whether public resources are being used for private works, Said also insisted that the police’s investigations should also extend beyond March 2013.