The Malta Independent 9 June 2023, Friday
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Rewarding abuse

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 18 September 2022, 09:48 Last update: about 10 months ago

Frank Fabri has finally been rewarded for his loyalty to his minister Justyne Caruana.  Fabri enabled Minister Caruana to abusively pay her ‘close friend’ Danjel Bogdanovic thousands of euro in taxpayers’ money. But Fabri did far worse.  He obstructed the investigation of the Standards Commissioner, withheld information, refused to tell the truth and covered up for his Minister.  Instead of doing his duty and protecting the state and its citizens, Fabri protected the Minister and her abusive behaviour. Fabri should have been prosecuted. Instead he’s been appointed general manager at the Institute of tourism studies.

His former boss Justyne Caruana received her reward months ago. The deadline for a call for application for the post of Legal Officer at the Victims Support Agency was oddly timed between Christmas and New Year 2021. Co-incidentally it was perfectly timed to co-incide with Justyne Caruana’s second resignation. Co-incidentally, Justyne Caruana applied.  Co-incidentally she was appointed.  Within barely a week of her second disgraceful exit, Caruana found her calling - Legal Officer for Victims Support. Caruana earned 40,000 euro, while still collecting her MP honorarium until March 2022 and continued with her private legal practice.

Caruana had already been forced out in 2020 when revelations about her husband’s close relationship with Yorgen Fenech were revealed. Silvio Valletta rose meteorically to Deputy Commissioner and lead investigator into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination for which his friend and travel companion Yorgen Fenech was later indicted. Caruana must have known about this but kept quiet. Despite the potential conflict of interest she still voted on key presidential pardons related to the case. Yet Robert Abela reappointed her to cabinet, just months later.

She rewarded the prime minister’s trust with further embarrassment. She was found guilty of shameful abuse of power. She recruited her close “friend”, Danjel Bogdanovic to her private secretariat but got her Frank Fabri to lie about it, issuing a statement of denial. She subsequently awarded her friend a lucrative direct contract to write a report on the National School of Sport - a task he was eminently unqualified for. She lied repeatedly, under oath, to the Standards Commissioner.

Caruana denied she was the one who identified Bogdanovic as the person to conduct the study on the Sports School.  Her disgraced permanent secretary, Frank Fabri, when asked who selected Bogdanovic testified “I don’t feel comfortable answering for the Minister, I would prefer it if she answers”.  She did. And she lied.  “The name, I didn’t come up with it alone - there were expert people indicating he might be the right person”, she testified.  She claimed Joe Caruana Curran and Bjorn Vassallo suggested him. Both denied.  They weren’t even consulted. Caruana Curran testified he was only informed Bogdanovic was carrying out the study when it was already in an advanced stage. He expressed his disapproval at Bogdanovic’s selection: “there are far more competent people in the country who can draw up that sort of report”.

When Caruana’s claims were challenged and asked to name the experts and organisations who she had discussed Bogdanovic with, she couldn’t name a single person or organisation.

“I cannot rely on this testimony,” the commissioner wrote in his report.

Paul Debattista did what Frank Fabri refused to do.  “She mentioned the name Danjel Bogdanovic,” Debattista confirmed. He knew. He actually did the work Bogdanovic was paid thousands of taxpayers’ money to do. The Commissioner’s report categorically concluded that Bogdanovic was not competent.  The Minister knew but appointed him anyway.  To conceal his incompetence, Debattista was tasked to write the report.  The Minister knew that too because she was copied in the majority of e-mails.  “The Minister knew what was going on, nothing happened behind her back,” according to the report. “There is no evidence that Danjel Bogdanovic contributed anything to the report,” the Commissioner concluded.  The Minister knew all this.

Yet she perjured herself claiming “the author of the report was Danjel Bogdanovic and it can be confirmed that at no stage was there any reason for anybody to doubt that fact”. Frank Fabri perjured himself too by concealing facts and refusing to tell the whole truth.

Bogdanovic never wrote that report.  He didn’t even know what it contained.  He never heard of the people quoted in that report. He couldn’t even name any of the recommendations. Bogdanovic lied. Frank Fabri lied. And Justyne Caruana lied, repeatedly.

“This case presents a high level of favouritism, where a contract was awarded with the sole aim of earning the favoured individual more money than he deserved, whether the work was done or not,” the Commissioner wrote. “This case can be considered not only as a breach of ethics but may overtly constitute a breach of criminal law,” he accused.

“When the beneficiary is chosen by the Minister herself, is a person close to her, is manifestly incompetent, the Minister’s failure is abusive especially since the work was actually performed by somebody else, with the full knowledge and blessing of the Minister.”  Damning.

Justyne Caruana abused her power, lied under oath repeatedly in what the report called a “concerted effort” to conceal the truth. No wonder the Commissioner considered her actions criminal. He went on to recommend to the Parliamentary Standards Committee that “the report should be referred to the Commisioner of Police for him to decide whether the actions of persons mentioned in the report should be investigated”.

The police are hardly going to prosecute Bogdanovic, Debattista, Fabri and even less Justyne Caruana. We know the law doesn’t apply to some.

In any civilised country, a lawyer who lied under oath would at least face the regulatory professional body at a tribunal and would be struck off for ‘failure to act with integrity’. Former UK cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken was jailed for 18 months for perjury. Fabri should have faced prosecution.

This is Malta. Instead of facing prosecution, Justyne Caruana has been rewarded with thousands of euro out of our taxes for stealing thousands more to pay her friend Bogdanovic - and lying about it. Now Frank Fabri’s own reward has arrived too.

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