The Malta Independent 6 August 2020, Thursday

Conflict of interest? Magistrate Nadine Lia leading Melvin Theuma phantom job inquiry

Tuesday, 10 December 2019, 14:45 Last update: about 9 months ago

Magistrate Nadine Lia is leading the inquiry into the phantom government job given by Castille to middleman Melvin Theuma, a PN MP has pointed out.

Writing on Facebook, Jason Azzopardi asked why Police Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla had waited until Thursday, when Lia was duty magistrate, to open the inquiry.

Lovin Malta spoke to Abdilla, who said he does not interfere as to when inspectors under his command choose to initiate magisterial inquiries.

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Theuma revealed in court last week that he had been given the government job after meeting former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri at Castille. The meeting had been facilitated by Sandro Craus, the OPM’s head of customer care. Both men have been questioned over the phantom job.

Melvin Theuma, right


Theuma had told the court that he did not even know what his job was, but used to receive three to four pay cheques a month. It was later established that he was employed with the Housing Maintenance Embellishment Co Ltd, a government company that falls under the Family Ministry. His employment started on 1 May 2017, the day when PM Joseph Muscat announced an early election.

The government had initially said that there was no record of Theuma’s employment, but the contract was later published in the media. Theuma was sacked after around four months.

The revelation has led to a number of persons being questioned and police searches.

Last week, magistrate Lia abstained from hearing the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, who is charged with complicity in financing and organizing the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Both the journalist’s family and Fenech had called for Lia’s recusal, on the basis that her father-in-law, Pawlu Lia, is the PM’s personal lawyer. Pawlu Lia is also lawyer to Keith Schembri.

Jason Azzopardi has asked whether the magistrate will be recusing herself in this case too, in view of the above. Speaking to Lovin Malta, Chief Justice declined to say whether he will be asking the magistrate to recuse herself, while questions sent to magistrate Lia remain unanswered.

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