Sacked FIAU official investigated money laundering breach by Malta PEPs

Jonathan Ferris: “Whether they’re guilty or not is up to a court to decide [but] how can reports of breaches of law, especially on money laundering, not be investigated?”

Jonathan Ferris is claiming unfair dismissal from the FIAU, when he was sacked while still on probation shortly after the June 2017 election
Jonathan Ferris is claiming unfair dismissal from the FIAU, when he was sacked while still on probation shortly after the June 2017 election

The former police investigator Jonathan Ferris said he left the police force shortly after an incident in which a minister demanded information on a police investigation.

Ferris told interviewer Manuel Delia, a former personal aide to Nationalist minister Austin Gatt for 13 years, that he had refused to divulge any information requested by the unnamed minister.

“Sometime in May, June 2016, a particular minister was copied in an email as requesting information in a particular case. Supt. Ian Abdilla asked me not to create a ‘diplomatic incident’ and reply… I sent him a strong message saying that police investigations were not for public scrutiny. From that time onwards… I decided my place was no longer there.”

Ferris later joined the Financial Analysis Information Unit, from which he would be sacked while still on probation shortly after the June 2017 election.

Ferris said he had a “brilliant relationship” with Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar, who had told him to reconsider his resignation from the police force.

Ferris said he is still bound by secrecy rules on his work at the FIAU. He has filed an unfair dismissal claim before the Industrial Tribunal, but an affidavit he filed in the case is being opposed by the Attorney General due to confidentiality and secrecy rules.

“I think I’m still bound by secrecy…. [but] the very fact that in these [FIAU] reports I specifically stated that persons in government had breached the law – whether they’re guilty or not is up to a court to decide – an investigation has to start. It is plausible that there is interference… how can reports of breaches of law, especially on money laundering, not be investigated?”

Ferris has already said he will produce documents alleging millions of euros were processed by the private bank Pilatus Bank for powerful Azerbaijanis.

In comments to The Times of London, Ferris insisted that the government is attempting to stop him publishing further accusations that allegedly detail Malta’s mysterious links to Azerbaijan’s ruling clan.

The Attorney General wants to hold the proceedings of the unfair dismissal claim behind closed doors.

Ferris has also claimed in his protest to the courts, that his termination of employment was politically motivated, referring specifically to comments made by finance minister Edward Scicluna in Brussels which Ferris said were “without doubt the politically partisan background that informed the actions of the [FIAU].”

Ferris was referring to Scicluna’s comments after the elections, where the minister surmised that excerpts of an unfinished FIAU investigation were written with “an intent to be leaked” to the press in the run-up to the election.

Ferris has suggested his sacking was an attempt to dampen his investigations into PEP while at the FIAU.

A leaked extract from an unfinished FIAU investigation published by The Malta Independent had alleged money was transferred to a Dubai company called 17 Black by the local company behind the LNG tanker powering the new gas-fired station. According to the extract, 17 Black was listed as the firm that would pay money into the once-secret Panama companies owned by Schembri and Mizzi.

Both men denied the allegations, and the FIAU has said no conclusive report exists.

The name ’17 Black’ had cropped up months earlier in an enigmatic blogpost by Daphne Caruana Galizia, which she referred to simply as “a company in Dubai” with the faces of former EU commissioner John Dalli, Schembri, Mizzi and Joseph Muscat – but no explanation was given for the post.

According to the excerpts from a 120-page report, the Dubai companies 17 Black and Macbridge were described as target clients of Tillgate Inc. and Hearnville Inc – the offshore companies set up for Schembri and Mizzi.

Mario Pullicino, the owner of Orion Engineering and company secretary of the Armada Floating Gas Services company which operates the LNG tanker, denied accusations that his company was involved in kickbacks destined for Schembri and Mizzi.

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