The Malta Independent 24 March 2018, Saturday

Tax official Ivan Portelli still reporting for work amid investigation

Kevin Schembri Orland Saturday, 11 March 2017, 10:41 Last update: about 2 years ago

Ivan Portelli, a Director within the Office of the Commissioner for Revenue who is currently under investigation is still reporting for work, Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty told the Malta Independent.

Recently, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia made a number of allegations in her personal blog against Mr Portelli (above), including that he went abroad on a trip with hotelier and developer Silvio Debono (the man behind the db Group). She has also written that Mr Portelli bought a St Paul’s Bay penthouse and garage in shell form for €300,000, and also bought a luxury Mercedes roadster. Commissioner Gaerty, who is looking into the allegations, told this newsroom that the proble should be concluded within days.

Commissioner Gaerty, when asked by this newsroom, said that Mr Portelli has not been suspended pending the investigation. “As you know we are working ‘gas down’ on this. Obviously this is an opinion and I am always asking for guidance from my Permanent Secretary. Since this should be concluded very soon, I think we would complicate life more by suspending him. Why? He works in human resources. If he was in operations or in investigations then I think it would merit this immediately. But this is something that should be concluded within days and I think a decision will be taken after that. We are not ruling it out, and I asked the Permanent Secretary for guidance as to whether we should suspend him or not, so I have not ruled it out. In the mean time I am gathering everything to see the situation.”

Asked whether, in his position, Ivan Portelli has access to tax files or anything of the sort, Commissioner Gaerty said this was not the case. “Absolutely not. He is in administration and human resources and deals solely with people, so he doesn’t have access. When he was Director of operations he had access, but today he doesn’t.”

Mr Portelli is a former police inspector who was sacked for allegedly having contacts with criminals but was later cleared.

In April 2009, a court cleared the three former police officers, one of whom was Mr Portelli, on the grounds that the principles of natural justice were not observed. Commissioner Grech had recommended the Public Service Commission to dismiss the men but the court said that the PSC had not informed the three men of the procedures against them or given them the opportunity to defend themselves. One of the fundamental human rights was the right to have a fair trial and to be given the opportunity to present a defence. This principle had not been observed in the case of the three men, the court said. As a result, their dismissal was declared null and void. The decision was confirmed by the Constitutional Court in 2010, following an appeal by the Prime Minister and the Commissioner of Police.

Mr Portelli was given the post of Director of Operations with the VAT Department this administration. He was later appointed as Director (Administration),Office of the Commissioner for Inland Revenue.

Commissioner Gaerty was asked whether the investigation he is conducting also surrounds Mr Portelli’s car and alleged €300,000 apartment and the media reports regarding these, to which he said yes. “We are looking at all information, and not just the case which resulted in the biggest media story.”

He said he is gathering all the information and asking the questions that need to be asked. “From thereon, I will seek guidance from the Permanent Secretary.”

Asked whether the police are involved in the investigation, he said no. Speaking generally, he said that if there is reasonable doubt that someone financed something that is not justified by his income, then he believes further steps would be needed.

The Commissioner, responding to this newsroom’s questions, said that he did not know about Mr Portelli’s house, car or trip with Silvio Debono before the case came out through the media.

Regarding Portelli’s relationship with Silvio Debono, and asked for his personal opinion about it, the Commissioner said that he does not know yet and is looking into it. “Malta is small. For example let’s say he’s known him for 20 years, what can I say, so civil service employees should not speak with anyone else?  This is why we need to look at the case. Don’t forget, as the Public Administration Act says, there are two things which I primarily need to look at, the first being whether he was influenced in his work, and secondly on the appearance of it, as that is important for the credibility of the department. It is important for a person in that position to hold back even if he is doing nothing wrong, as if the perception out there is that a person in that position is doing something wrong, it’s still bad. That is exactly what I am trying to see.”

The Commissioner said that he has no idea whether Mr Portelli had ties with Silvio Debono when he held his position in the VAT department.

Silvio Debono refused to answer questions over the phone, and told this newsroom to ask his PR person, Lou Bondi, instead. Pushed, Mr Debono hung up the phone. Ivan Portelli himself was also contacted, however refused to answer any questions.

This newsroom contacted Mr Bondi and asked why Mr Debono took Ivan Portelli with him on a trip abroad. Mr Bondi said “we are not commenting on this topic at all.”

Asked whether Silvio Debono bought into the PN’s Cedoli scheme, Mr Bondi said no. PN sources contacted by this newsroom also said no in response to the same question. 


  • don't miss