The Malta Independent 26 November 2021, Friday

People will ask where Caruana got €400k to build apartment block, Rizzo told Evarist Bartolo

Neil Camilleri Tuesday, 6 December 2016, 18:56 Last update: about 6 years ago

Published emails show Minister made it clear he would not protect anyone, complained no one came forward with 'tangible' proof

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo this evening tabled correspondence he had with Philip Rizzo, the former FTS CEO who resigned after claiming that the minister stood idle after he was made aware of corruption claims.

The case revolves around allegations made against Edward Caruana, a former person of Mr Bartolo’s trust, who was allegedly involved in corruption and bribes in contracts issued by the Foundation forT Tomorrow’s Schools.

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Mr Bartolo is under fire from the Opposition, which claims he decided to wait rather than call in the police. The Minister yesterday admitted that Mr Rizzo first told him about the alleged abuse in April of this year but said he wanted to wait until he had more substantial proof against Caruana.

This emerged as he read out from correspondence he had with Mr Rizzo. The Speaker yesterday gave Mr Bartolo until today to table the documents.

The correspondence shows how Mr Rizzo complained of inaction and how he warned the minister that people would start asking how Mr Caruana got some €400,000 to build a six-apartment block. The minister, however, complained that no one had come forward with “tangible” proof.

In the first part of the correspondence, an SMS sent by Mr Bartolo to Mr Rizzo, the minister says: “Treat him like any normal employee. Fair but firm. No one outside good governance regulations. He might say that he takes cheques to Gozo to make life easier for Gozitan contractors. Listen to him by let us address issues effectively through structures. Enjoy.”

Later on that same day Rizzo urged the minister to “throw Edward Caruana out” of the foundation. “Let’s not rush to throw anyone out except EDWARD CARUANA,” Mr Rizzo wrote.

On 14 March, Philip Rizzo told the minister that Mr Caruana “and his chum, the billiards player, will be moving to Mtarfa today.”

On 20 April Bartolo said in an email to Rizzo: “Please understand that no one no one no one enjoys immunity or is untouchable because he has worked for me politically since 1992. Understood:)?"

In another email dated 23 June Mr Bartolo makes mention to a “rogue operation” by Caruana. He tells Mr Rizzo: “Do not believe one word of what Edward told you. The PM has not spoken to me about it. And I know what to answer. We cannot have him run a parallel rouge operation that does not respect any procedures on how public money is spent. I would ignore him.

In another email sent that same day the minister says: “Let us keep this up our sleeve. I would like us to meet on this.” To which Mr Rizzo replied: “I will do exactly as you say.”

On 23 August Mr Rizzo sent an email to Mr Bartolo and Emanuel Camilleri, FTS Chairman. “I consider it my duty to make you aware of a formal claim against FTS received today through the courts for c 5,400 euro from Dr Michael Caruana’s business in Gozo relating to building materials never formally or even knowingly ordered by FTS in August 2015, when they were consigned to a certain Xmun Camilleri (purportedly acting on Edward Caruana’s instructions.)

FTS is, of course, in time to merely pay the amount without any comment at all, if that is what it wishes to do.”

In an email dated 10 September, Mr Bartolo tells Mr Rizzo: “I have made it very clear that I want Tony to stay. My regret is that steps I took recently should have been taken long ago but (I) had no smoking gun.”

Mr Rizzo replied. “Permit me to tell you as a brother: you did too little and too late. Transferring Edward with the same incredibly high remuneration package is worse than doing nothing at all. All Gozo knows what he was u to …. Someone is going to ask where from during the last 2 years Edward got c 400k to build a six apartment block in Rabat.

Believe me, you’re all playing with fire with highly flammable material all around in each FTS project’s file.”

The Education Minister replied: “No one came forward with any tangible proof. Had been promised before your time but none materialized.”

Mr Rizzo then replied: “But sir what you are doing NOW, after you have plenty of tangible evidence is what you will be judged upon … nobody thinks you were involved then … but now your duty is clear.

On Perm Sec Rita Schembri I had less than 20% of what I have on the Caruanas! Forgive me, Sir … it’s out of respect that I risk saying so much to you.”

The documents can be seen here. 

Speaking later in Parliament, Mr Bartolo said Rizzo’s first request as FTS CEO was to remove Edward Caruana from Pembroke and transfer him to Mtarfa. “I agreed. Caruana was not protected.”

Mr Bartolo said he was aware of the animosity that existed between Rizzo and Caruana. “I wanted to gather more information, including from other sources. In another email I made it clear that he (Caruana) was not protected.”

He insisted that the emails showed that his behaviour was at no time that of a person who was protecting someone.

During his speech this evening the minister referred to several emails that were not among those he tabled earlier.  

Mr Bartolo said he was untroubled by the attacks launched at him by the Opposition. “I have a sense of humour and I feel serene. The more I am attacked by these Pharisees the more I smile and take it in my stride.

 

Christ had told the Pharisees that were about to stone an adulteress that those without sin should throw the first stone. “Those Pharisees dropped their stones and walked away. But the Pharisees inside this room are of a special kind and would have stoned the women despite their own sins.”


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