Alfred Mifsud’s former partner dishes the dirt on alleged bribes for banking system

Anna Zelbst, who lived with Central Bank deputy governor for 24 years, says the M Demajo group paid him thousands in cash to allegedly push the Eastman banking system for Mid Med Bank

Alfred Mifsud
Alfred Mifsud

The whistleblower behind allegations that Central Bank deputy governor Alfred Mifsud would have taken bribes from a supplier of banking software during his tenure as Mid Med Bank chairman between 1996 and 1998, is his former companion.

Anna Zelbst, 62, came forward on Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog, to say she witnessed Mifsud accepting cash bribes. “Now I think I should remove all last shreds of doubt that the story is true by speaking publicly and on the record,” Zelbst was quoted at saying.

Zelbst was a former head of sales at One TV, the Labour Party’s television station, but was made a director of the government’s investments arm Mimcol in 2014. The couple, who have children together, were never married and are now no longer together.

Zelbst has declared that when Mifsud was chairman of Mid Med Bank in 1997 and 1998, during the Labour administration of the time, Ronnie Demajo from the M Demajo business group had visited her Balzan residence “at least three times, and each time he brought with him Lm50,000 in cash.”

“The cash deliveries were made to our house because they couldn’t be made to the office or anywhere else, and I suppose Ronnie came personally because he couldn’t risk involving anyone else.

“When Alfred was removed from his position as bank chairman in 1998, I know – because he used to complain about it – that Ronnie Demajo still owed him Lm70,000 but never paid it because now Alfred was no longer at Mid Med. That had really upset him.”

Mifsud resigned the Mid Med Bank chairmanship after the Nationalist Party was re-elected in 1998, after which the bank was privatised and sold to HSBC.

Zelbst told Caruana Galizia that Mifsud would count the cash in his study. “Then he would give me Lm10,000 of it and tell me to deposit it in my account at the Bank of Valletta the following morning, and immediately write him a cheque for the full Lm10,000 so he could transfer it to his own account and it would look like money coming from me. I very much regret doing it, but at the time I just obeyed him. It was only much later that I understood the implications of allowing him to use my bank account that way.”

Zelbst has declared she is unaware of why Demajo handed the cash over to Mifsud, but Caruana Galizia said that former senior bank officials told her that upon being appointed chairman, Mifsud was pushing for a change in Mid Med’s Bankmaster software system.

The M. Demajo Group was an agent for Eastpoint. When Mid-Med Bank was sold to HSBC in 1999, the Eastpoint system was scrapped and the company entered into litigation with HSBC Holdings/Mid Med Bank.

Zelbst has also told Caruana Galizia that Mifsud received €2,750 a month for 18 months from Philip Morris International, to gain access to John Dalli – the former PN finance minister – when he was European Commissioner for Health. Dalli resigned the post in 2012 after the EU's anti-fraud office alleged he was aware of a third party's attempt to soliict a €50 million bribe to change tobacco laws.

“All I know is that Alfred’s brief was to talk to Dalli about Philip Morris’s issues. The subject was something to do with cigarette filters. When Dalli had to leave his European Commissioner post, Philip Morris stopped paying Alfred. He was really angry about it. Alfred accepted a lot of hospitality from Philip Morris, including travel to watch football matches in a special box as guests of the company. I went with him to one of those games.”

Mifsud has categorically denied allegations of corruption and money laundering made against him and insisted that Caruana Galizia’s sources are “untrustworthy and motivated by revenge and hate from a failed personal relationship (after refusing unreasonable demands for financial settlement) I was left with no option but to file libel.”

“With 47 years uninterrupted experience in financial services without ever being accused of impropriety, I cannot be expected to prove my innocence rather than the accusers proving their allegations.”

The finance ministry is probing the corruption allegations.

Mifsud was appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank, responsible for monetary affairs for a five-year term. He is being touted as the likely successor to governor Josef Bonnici when his term ends next month.

Zelbst has claimed that Mifsud threatened her that he would “leave her with nothing to live on” if she spoke to the press. “I have no money of my own and no income, no rights because even though we were together for 24 years and have two children, we were never married. Now he is threatening to starve me into submission and blackmail me into not speaking about this.”