Abuse of power and political connections is nothing new to Malta. And while Education Minister Justyne Caruana could be facing a criminal investigation for handing her boyfriend, Daniel Bogdanovic, a €15,000 contract for work he never did, it’s not the first rodeo for the former footballer.
In 2016, Bogdanovic was arrested over a domestic violence incident but was released to play against his team’s arch-rivals soon after his coach, who served as Ian Borg’s chief of staff, called up a Police Assistant Commissioner to intervene.
On Friday 29th October at 7pm, Bogdanovic’s then-wife and her brother reported the footballer to police in Victoria over a threatening message she had received from him. The contents of the SMS had been redacted in an inquiry carried out by retired AFM commander Carmel Vassallo into the issue.
He was arrested that evening and had a licensed pistol and rifle seized by police.
Inspector Edel Mary Camilleri then told Magistrate Joanne Vella Cushieri that Bogdanovic would be arraigned on Monday morning and would be kept under arrest until then.
Bogdanovic’s coach at Xewkija F.C, Jesmond Zammit, who was then chief of staff to Ian Borg, at the time Parliamentary Secretary for EU funds, contacted Assitant Commissioner Carmelo Magri on Saturday.
After the phone call, Magri suggested to Camilleri that she speak to the Magistrate to change the time over the arraignment, specifically to Sunday morning. However, the Magistrate dismissed the request, with Magri then informing Zammit that Bogdanovic would remain under arrest.
Zammit might be familiar to some. His daughter, Adreana Zammit, earned over €100,000 in direct orders within a 12-month period even though she had barely graduated from university.
On Sunday morning, Superintendent Antonello Grech approached Camilleri with a conversation she said: “sounded like a warning”. Grech reportedly insisted that keeping Bogdanovic in custody would be against the spirit of the law.
Bogdanovic had a match later that day, and while not confirmed, it is believed that Grech brought up the match during the conversation.
“This conversation should be a subject for the police administration, perhaps the Attorney General, to inquire upon further, in the interest of the police corps,” the report said.
Given the domestic violence allegation, Camilleri felt it was necessary to uphold the 48-hour limit. However, Bogdanovic was eventually granted police bail, something that raised eyebrows given the inspector’s request for a protection order.
Bogdanovic eventually made it in time for his game against Kercem.
The footballer was eventually acquitted on the harassment charges but was found guilty of misusing telecommunications equipment and insecure storage of firearms. A protection order was also issued for his then-wife and her family.
Zammit was not the only politically connected figure at Xewkija Tigers, with Minister Anton Refalo, who was then Gozo Minister, acting as a bank guarantor for the club’s acquisition of his premises. Refalo denied all links to the case and the inquiry made no reference to his involvement.
Bogdanovic’s current relationship with Caruana does raise serious questions over the case. While they only started a romantic relationship over the last year, Lovin Malta is reliably informed that the pair have known each other for a very long time.
Meanwhile, Caruana’s then-husband was Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, who has since been revealed to have leaked sensitive information on the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation to Yorgen Fenech, the suspected mastermind, and the hitmen, among a host of other details.
Years later, when Caruana and Bogdanovic began their romantic relationship, the Minister filed a stalking and harassment complaint against Bogdanovic’s former wife.
However, she would later drop the case when the woman’s lawyers planned to summon close to 40 witnesses for the case, many of whom would have provided candid details over Bogdanovic’s employment within the ministry.
Caruana has so far been silent on calls demanding her resignation despite a Standards Commissioner report demanding a criminal investigation into a 15,000 direct order the minister handed over to Bogdanovic.
Standards Commissioner George Hylzler has described the minister’s actions as an “abuse of power”.
With little action seemingly being taken by Malta’s Prime Minister, it seems that like then, political connections and loyalties can buy anyone the time they need.
What do you think of the 2016 case?