This month was dominated by a number of major news stories including one involving a parliamentary secretary, the ‘discovery’ of Sai Mizzi (the energy minister’s wife), another involving a black student who was manhandled by police officers after he was racially abused and the case of a Gozitan boy who saved an infant from drowning in Gozo.
On 1 July, The Malta Independent revealed that a man wrote to the Permanent Commission Against Corruption and other national institutions asking them to investigate the redevelopment of rural property by Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg, claiming that abuse of power led to the issuing of a development permit which should never have been issued.
Noel Ciantar, a Rabat farmer who is also qualified as an accountant, carried out his own journalistic investigation into the case after reports on the proposed development in a picturesque are in the limits of Rabat surfaced on the media, alleging that planning policies were breached to allow the redevelopment of the site. In December, we revealed the findings of the Ombudsman’s environmental commission investigation which delved into the process used by Mepa in this case. It found that the Development Permit Application Report (DPAR) drawn up by Mepa’s case officer contained a “series of omissions and variation in the text” that “cannot be put down to human error but point to a deliberate attempt to remove the one remaining obstacle potentially blocking approval of the application”. As for the investigation by the Commission against corruption, it is still under way. Mepa released a right of reply which read that it acted “correctly”.
That same day, we reported that former Minister Austin Gatt said he never interfered in the oil procurement procedure, and that he never spoke to anyone on the tendering committee. Dr Gatt was testifying before the Public Accounts Committee over oil procurement procedures between 2003 and 2010.
But the case which hit the headlines in July was an incident which took place at the Valletta bus terminus on 2 July – the day of the launch of the new bus card system - which culminated in the wrongful and overly forceful arrest of a black Hungarian university student who was trying to make people form an orderly line when the tallinja card system failed. As chaos erupted, Daboma Jack, who is in Malta reading for a Masters Degree in Engineering, tried to get people to form an orderly line but he was confronted by a woman who hurled racist comments at him. Eventually, RIU police officers who arrived at the scene were captured on camera manhandling Mr Jack.
The Police had claimed that they were led into thinking that Mr Jack was the perpetrator in this whole saga. In an exclusive interview with The Malta Independent the day after, Mr Jack said that what made him cry was the clapping when the police pinned him to the ground.
On 2 July, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was in Malta for talks with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He said that once Libya unites it will continue to fight IS.
On 3 July, Dr Muscat said that his government was proposing that the American University of Malta campus would be split. It later transpired that a campus would be set up at Marsacala’s Zonqor Point and another in Cospicua. A massive controversy ensued due to the fact that it was proposed the campus be built on a massive portion of ODZ land in Marsascala. This issue sparked the biggest environment-related protest Malta ever witnessed.
We also reported that a court turned down a request by businessman Mark Gaffarena for a warrant of prohibitory injunction against the owners of part of a building in Old Mint Street, Valletta, on which he made a hefty profit through a fast expropriation initiated by the government. The parallel investigations which looked into the case of the Old Mint Street property have not yet been published.
On 5 July, the European Central Bank (ECB) asked Bank of Valletta’s top officials to explain how millions of euros in unsecured loans were issued to Air Malta to make up for the airline’s discrepancy in its fuel-hedging agreements over the past year.
On 6 July, we reported that Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni had a few ‘teething’ problems while on his visit to Malta after his security detail which was armed to the teeth was spotted by this newsroom outside a private dental practice in the centre of the island.
When this newsroom investigated further, sources said “a high-profile government guest” was visiting a dentist in Naxxar at the time.
On the same day, we reported comments made by Sai Mizzi – the wife of Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi – who said “you finally found me” after the Opposition cried foul over the fact that she had been appointed special envoy to China but attempts made by the media to locate her in China proved futile.
On 19 July, veteran actor John Suda was charged with the violent indecent assault of a 22-year-old woman. We revealed that a Dingli family was considering taking legal action in a bid to reverse the sale of a property to Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg after they learned that their mentally-ill and vulnerable father had been duped into selling the Cabinet member a piece of land for a suspiciously low price and under dubious circumstances.
On 22 July, Italian President Sergio Mattarella made a short official visit to Malta where he met with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. Immigration topped the agenda.
On 25 July, Gasol, which has been reported to have been ailing financially, was removed from a new and improved company structure announced by ElectroGas Malta, which is building the new Delimara power station.
On 30 July, this newsroom exclusively reported that a 13-year-old Gozitan boy saved an infant from drowning at Marsalforn Bay. In December, Karl Curmi was awarded a Midalja għall-Qlubija.