The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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AUM’s red carpet, Part 2: OPM helped university fight off ‘media attacks’

Neil Camilleri & Albert Galea Sunday, 17 July 2022, 07:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

• Government promised to create schemes to benefit Jordanian investors • OPM and AUM discussed use of Casino di Venezia, Rialto by AUM • Promises to help university with planning permits, residency visas for students • Castille took care of AUM’s damage control after ‘media attacks’ • Government pledged to intervene to help AUM reach promised student levels • Revolving doors: OPM official involved in deal moved to NCFHE, and later to AUM • AUM ‘not a bona fide institution’, sacked lecturer had told PM Muscat

A number of side agreements which the Muscat administration had signed with the owners of the American University of Malta Sadeen Group shed new light on how the government rolled out the red carpet for the failing institution.

The newly leaked documents, seen by The Malta Independent on Sunday, show how the government pledged to help the struggling university on everything from obtaining planning permits, to sending it students so that it would be able to reach its full capacity.

The documents also show that the government and AUM were discussing the possibility of the use of the Rialto building in Cospicua, which is owned by the Labour Party, and also the Casino di Venezia in Vittoriosa.

Furthermore, Castille was taking care of AUM’s damage control, even writing an ‘open letter’ for Sadeen to use in the face of ‘media attacks.’

Email correspondence show the close ties between Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and other OPM officials, Adrian Hillman, who was appointed by Muscat to sit on AUM’s board of trustees as the government’s representatives, and the Jordanian nationals behind the project.

AUM was in the news recently after the government filed a Parliamentary resolution to take back the land it had given to AUM in Zonqor in 2015. This came after the university failed to reach its student targets and after The Malta Independent on Sunday revealed that it was continuing to make heavy financial losses.

AUM has now been given a similarly sized tract of land at Smart City in Kalkara.

 

Email exchanges between OPM, Hillman and AUM lawyer

Leaked emails feature Adrian Hillman, former Allied Newspapers managing director who was appointed by the government to AUM’s board of trustees, OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, Loual Twal, who was then lawyer for the Sadeen Group (and later sued the university), and James Grech, an OPM official who was appointed by Schembri as a project manager and to head a steering committee that consisted of only him and Alex Muscat.

In one email to Sadeen’s lawyer, Hillman details how the OPM was to help AUM deal with

Media attacks.’

HS [Hani Salah] explained that the AUM is being impacted negatively by the media attacks. KS [Keith Schembri] suggested that, right now, the AUM should not react. OPM to prepare two letters of support: one will be sent to East China Normal University and the other will be an open letter to be used by Sadeen.”

They also discussed the lack of student enrolment. The target for August was 100 students but none had confirmed yet. The students came mainly from Ghana, India and Cameroon (described in the email as a high-risk country). “AUM needs to work with reputable agents to get the right students,” the email states.

University licence: HS explained that the AUM “urgently” needs to replace the name of John Ryder with Lewis Walker. “JG [James Grech] to follow with NCFHE.”


Read the full story, published in four parts:

AUM’s red carpet, Part 1: Government pledges students, schemes and ‘other assistance’

AUM’s red carpet, Part 3: OPM, university discussed Casino di Venezia, Rialto

AUM’s red carpet, Part 4: A warning to the PM, and an extreme case of revolving doors

 

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