It’s truly never a slow news week in Malta. Over the last week, a historic bill was passed to bring more women into Parliament, a sitting minister was caught spending thousands of taxpayer funds to boost his own image and the star of an infamous Labour campaign video was charged with a string of financial crimes.
Here are eight of the biggest stories of the week.
1. That girl from Labour’s courage to vote video was charged with money laundering.
Florinda Sultana, the young women in the infamous “Dad, jien ħa nivvota Labour” campaign in 2013, was taken to court on charges of money laundering and an oil smuggling ring connected to her step-father, Darren Debono.
The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty to charges linked to a €30 million fuel smuggling ring involving Libya.
When police searched her home in November 2020, they uncovered €52,000 in cash, an Audi A1, luxury brand items, luxury watches, large jars with banknotes, as well as documents from the family’s restaurants Porticello, Capo Mulini, Silver Horse and Onda Blu restaurants, which police believe were used to launder illicit funds.
The plot thickened, as one of the restaurants owned by fuel smuggler Debono, Capo Mulini in Marsaxlokk, was formerly owned by Darren Degabriele, the man killed in a 2014 car bomb attack.
While the case was never solved but the police suspect Degabriele to have been involved in fuel smuggling.
2. Dealbreaker? Malta’s Tourism Minister says mask-wearing at the beach is on for summer.
Mandatory mask-wearing at the beach is on the cards, Minister of Tourism Clayton Bartolo said, stressing that he doesn’t think it will discourage people from visiting Malta this summer.
Answering questions posed by Lovin Malta, Bartolo said he sincerely believes that Malta has a lot more to offer tourists than just beaches and the sea. His comments come after Gauci said that it’s important that certain measures like social distancing, hand washing and mask-wearing are kept in place to mitigate potential flair ups of COVID-19 cases.
“We need to see how things progress but the impact of wearing masks is very clear. So, for the time being, we need to keep these masks because we know that they work,” she said.
Beachgoers, therefore, need to put on their masks “as soon as possible” after coming out of the water. Meanwhile, Spain lifted its requirement for masks on beaches.
3. A minister was caught misusing €7000 of taxpayer money to boost his self-image.
OPM Minister Carmelo Abela has been found in breach of the Code of Ethics for Ministers by using €7,000 of taxpayer money for an advertising campaign that was “clearly intended to boost his image”.
Standards Commissioner George Hyzler said it was up to Parliament’s Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life to decide the remedy. He did however point out that it is common practice for misused funds to be refunded to the State in the UK’s House of Commons.
Abela himself refused to state whether he will settle a refund, arguing that there are no clear guidelines for the promotion of ministerial work. He said he intends to wait for it to be discussed by the parliamentary committee for standards of public life.
4. A young man selling pastizzi woke up from a coma to face charges over a joint in his pocket.
A 24-year-old opened up to Lovin Malta about his surreal story as Malta considers expunging criminal records of people caught with marijuana.
Mark Borg* was working at a pastizzeria when he was beaten up by a group of young people that put him into a coma. When he woke up, he was questioned by police, but not for an investigation over the physical attack… but for a joint he had.
Luckily, after pledging guilty to possession of dealing with court bureaucracy and pleading guilty to possessing 2.5 g of weed, Borg went on to complete a course at MCAST and is now working his dream job at a local TV station.
However, the stigma from society and the courts against those in possession of weed remains.
Read about Malta’s white paper on marijuana here.
5. A law student has died in a car crash in Rabat.
A 19-year-old law student named Julian Spiteri died in a fatal road accident in Rabat.
Spiteri lost his life after he collided with a tree on Triq Tal-Infetti near Saqqjja Hill in the morning. Another 19-year-old who was in the passenger seat, Matthew Tabone, is currently being treated for previous but not life-threatening injuries.
Tributes from friends, family and colleagues from his course poured in on social media.
“Words can’t describe how upsetting this is. One of the nicest gentlemen I had the pleasure of coming across. Fly high, you were one of a kind,” one post read.
“Absolutely devastating news,” another person wrote.
6. A historic bill to bring more women into Parliament has been passed.
A landmark bill to address Parliament’s low representation of women has been passed. Currently, just 13% of MPs are female.
This bill will introduce a ‘gender corrective mechanism’ that would automatically kick in if the lesser represented gender gains under 40% of the total seats.
This mechanism will only apply if MPs from two political parties are elected, with the government shooting down an Opposition request to extend it to third parties.
Prime Minister Robert Abela hailed the decision as a step forward to achieving gender equality, but his enthusiasm was t matched by other parties.
The Nationalist Party was disappointed that none of its amendments was included, while ADPD head Carmelo Caccopardo said it only served the two parties’ need to control.
It seems the gender-deficit problem isn’t exclusive to Parliament.
Last week, four new judges were appointed to Malta’s courts. However, out of 12 names sent to the President, eight were female, but only one was appointed.
7. A chunk of Mġarr the size of Buskett is on sale for €5 million.
Someone is selling 290 tumoli of land amounting to 2% of Mġarr, stretching from outside Baħrija to the western coastline… for just €5.2 million.
The now-deleted Facebook post sparked a flurry of outrage online, with some warning it would effectively shut off access to a popular trekking site called Blata tal-Melħ while others argued that at such a low price, it could be bought by the government and turned into a national park.
All in all, most just hope it won’t be turned into another dense area of buildings.
8. A woman is forced to pay thousands after her notary stole her taxes.
A Maltese woman has been left with no choice but to cough up thousands after her notary didn’t pay her taxes when purchasing her apartment.
Stephanie* spoke to Lovin Malta on how her property, bought two years ago, was never registered. This means she has no legal rights to own it, despite paying her stamp duty and capital transfer taxes.
It was revealed that her notary, who has now lost his license, has a major gambling problem. She is not the first to fall victim to the notary in question.
In sum, she is faced with a difficult choice at no fault of her own: to pay her dues and those of the vendor a second time or accept her lost investment.
Malta’s Notarial Council has since responded to the story, calling for legislation to ensure property buyers are given timely redress if they get defrauded by their notaries.
Do you think we missed any major stories? Comment below