Jonathan Ferris, a former police inspector and financial intelligence gatherer who has decried the Maltese state as being corrupt to the bone, has named foreign affairs minister Carmelo Abela as the minister who he says interfered with a police investigation, prompting the Opposition to demand his resignation.
Ferris’ recent statement that he left the police force in June last year because of ministerial interference has sparked political controversy, with the Opposition using the last two parliamentary question time sessions to try and uncover the identity of the minister in question.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, Ferris made these allegations: “Carmelo Abela’s secretary had sent me an email, with the minister cced in it, to ask me how a fraud case I was investigating was progressing. I responded that it was still being investigated and he said he was aware, to which I told him he could fix an appointment with me if he wanted. He got back to me with an email saying, in capital letters, that the minister wanted this information.”
Police sources told Lovin Malta the minister was within his rights to ask how a case was progressing, but Ferris insisted this was not the case.
“This amounted to pressure and interference…the minister knew he was breaking the law.”
Lovin Malta sent questions to Abela this morning but no reply was forthcoming as of the time of writing. However, he later issued a press release strongly denying any interference and saying the request in question was filed after the defrauded party complained to the minister that the police were not giving any information about the case.
“As remarked by the journalist reporting the case, the request for such information clearly falls within the Minister’s remit, especially when faced with a complaint, and can in no way be misconstrued as undue pressure or interference, as Mr Ferris incorrectly concluded,” Abela said. “The result of this “revelation” goes a long way to define the credibility of Mr Ferris and his recent statements.
Foreign affairs minister Carmelo Abela
However, Opposition leader Adrian Delia called on Carmelo Abela to resign – warning the email is black-on-white proof of political interference in the police force.
“Rule of law means the government cannot interfere in the police’s work,” he said. “If it starts interfering in the police force, then it would mean we are no longer living in a Western democracy but in a dictatorship. We live in a country where the rule of law should hold and the only logical consequence following these revelations is for Abela to immediately resign.”
The Civil Society Network has called for Abela’s resignation, while former PN leader Simon Busuttil noted that Ireland’s deputy prime minister recently resigned in the wake of criticism that she had failed to support a sergeant who had blown the whistle on corruption.
— CivilSocietyNetwork (@ActivistsMalta) November 29, 2017
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) November 29, 2017
Ferris said the case in question wasn’t a politically sensitive one but rather a generic case of fraud which is still being investigated.
He added that assistant police commissioner Ian Abdilla, who is in charge of the money laundering and economic crimes unit, had pressured him to respond to the minister’s email so as not to create a “diplomatic incident”. Ferris sent Abdilla a “strong message” that police investigations were not for public scrutiny, but the entire incident left Ferris disillusioned with the police force. He asked police commissioner Laurence Cutajar for a secondment and, a few months later, found a new job at the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.
Ferris reiterated that the FIAU sidelined him in April as soon as journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia reported the Prime Minister’s wife owns the offshore company Egrant. The FIAU’s logic was that Caruana Galizia’s source was Maria Efimova, who had previously blamed Ferris for a stress-induced miscarriage while he was investigating her for allegedly misappropriating funds from her former employer Pilatus Bank.
The FIAU argued Ferris’ past with Efimova gave him a conflict of interest, but Ferris denied this was the case. Ferris said he requested to be reinstated to the police force in May, a month before the end of his probationary period, but his application was rejected.
“Police reinstatements must be signed by the Office of the Prime Minister, but they somehow refused my application,” he said. “It is clear to me that they wanted to display a show of force.”
Maria Efimova during an interview with the Malta Independent
Police commissioner Laurence Cutajar has bore the brunt of people’s anger at the authorities in the wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination last month, with several irreverent protests demanding his resignation.
However, Ferris said he has a brilliant relationship with Cutajar, who he described as a “good man…perhaps too good for the position of police commissioner”. Indeed, he said Cutajar had personally called him up to ask if he wants police protection as soon as he warned he was being followed by unknown people.
“I was saddened when I saw the attacks against the police commissioner, with people throwing tomatoes and bananas at a poster of him,” Ferris said. “That was nothing but an insult to the police uniform. We risk our lives so that people can live their everyday lives with peace of mind. I understand why people are angry, but there are ways and means to express it…”
Jonathan Ferris condemned the irreverent protests against the police commissioner
However, he had less kind words for Ian Abdilla – who he noted had been promoted three times, from sergeant to superintendent to assistant commissioner, since Labour’s electoral victory back in 2013.
“He was promoted three times in 18 months and is in charge of the money laundering and economic crimes units, of course he has close ties to the government,” he said.
Ferris also had harsh words for Attorney General Peter Grech, who he accused of trying to silence him. This is because the AG has requested the expungement of an affidavit Ferris had filed in his court case accusing the FIAU of unfair dismissal – on the grounds that the affidavit included references to the FIAU’s internal operations which were protected by secrecy.
“Peter Grech is trying to silence me but it will blow up in his face,” Ferris said. “I am ready to take my case to the European Court of Human Rights if needs be.”