Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said he decided to fire Adrian Hillman from a Malta Gaming Authority consultancy role last year because he felt it was the best possible decision “in the national interest and the interest of the MGA”.
Questioned by Lovin Malta at a press conference today, Bartolo also confirmed that Hillman never followed up on a threat to sue him for libel over comments the then parliamentary secretary had passed when announcing his removal.
Bartolo had removed the former Allied Newspapers managing director from his MGA consultancy role in January 2020, shortly after his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary for the Digital Economy.
Back then, he said Hillman was taking payments intended for a private company and ordered his removal “as a show of zero tolerance to potentially damaging behaviour to such a crucial industry”.
Hillman responded by accusing Bartolo of engaging in “personal attacks” and threatening to sue him for libel.
“While he (Bartolo) has every right to execute his role as he sees appropriate, his methods do not befit a politician in his position. In making a public statement full of insinuations, he is attempting to destroy a single individual,” he said.
“To him, I am guilty by association with members within his own party,” Hillman added, in reference to inquiries into his relationship with the former Prime Minister’s ex-Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
“He (Bartolo) must be conscious that his predecessor was cognisant of my role over the past years. My understanding is that what he is saying is libellous. He must therefore retract and clarify his statement. I will be acting accordingly.”
Police recently charged 11 people, including Schembri and Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, over a major money laundering case involving Hillman.
The charges follow the conclusion of two magisterial inquiries that former PN leader Simon Busuttil had requested back in 2017.
One inquiry is related to allegations that Schembri channelled over €650,000 to Hillman between 2011 and 2015. The other is related to suspected kickbacks amounting to €100,000 from the sale of citizenship between Schembri and Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna.
Last week, police inspector Joseph Xerri laid out a complex web of transactions to show how Schembri, Hillman, Kasco CEO Malcolm Scerri and former Progress Press chairman Vince Buhagiar split a $5 million profit after selling printing machines to Progress Press at an inflated price. It appears that Hillman received well over €1 million in all.
Hillman himself hasn’t been charged yet and was last known to be residing in the United Kingdom, where he is researching a PhD in the construction of news at Goldsmiths University.
Sources have informed Lovin Malta that the former newspaper boss will be brought to the country to face charges as part of a new post-Brexit extradition agreement with the UK.