Allied director gifted painting to Redmap’s Sladden for ‘unpaid’ house works

Allied Group's acting managing director says he gave Pierre Sladden a painting after the contractor didn't issue an invoice for works carried out at his house 

Allied group's acting managing director Michel Rizzo
Allied group's acting managing director Michel Rizzo

The Allied group’s acting managing director Michel Rizzo was prompted to come forward and explain the nature of the works that Pierre Sladden, a sub-contractor for Allied’s Progress Press premises, provided him after MaltaToday published details of the €34,000 works he provided to PN deputy leader Mario de Marco, a member of the Strickland Foundation’s council which owns 78% of Allied Newspapers.

Rizzo has denied having had any intention of having the work done for free, after MaltaToday revealed that De Marco paid for the works in March and April soon after the resignation of Allied’s managing director Adrian Hillman over allegations of bribery.

Sladden was the focus of attention from The Times, which is published by Allied Newspapers, after it emerged that he held a British Virgin Islands company in which he deposited money from works he carried out at Progress Press.

Like him, both Hillman and Keith Schembri, who supplied Progress Press with their new printing machinery, had opened BVI companies. Schembri is now the chief of staff to the prime minister.

Rizzo has now confirmed he gave Sladden a painting by a renowned Maltese artist, after Sladden did not issue an invoice. Rizzo said he did this to cover the cost of the works carried out at his house: he used Sladden’s Redmap to carry out urgent repairs and minor plastering and retouching after pieces of stonework crumbled from his St Julian’s apartment balcony in February 2013.

He said that he made it very clear to Sladden that he was engaging him on a personal basis and that he would be paying for the works. But Rizzo said he never received the invoice: “When I gave up on Mr Sladden, I took it on myself to purchase him a gift as I didn’t want to remain in a state of indebtedness on this matter. I never again had any reason to engage Mr Sladden or his company for any further works.”

Allied’s board secretary Clinton Calleja, who stated he has no executive role or any decision-making powers in the group, said he engaged Redmap on minor works which included a 3cm-thick cement layer for an estimated €200-€300. “I repeatedly asked for a tax invoice. Despite these requests, Redmap never sent the invoice.”

Calleja said he does not sit on management committees or any adjudication boards nor does he advice on any adjudication or procurement processes at Allied.