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MT 8 May 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 8 MAY 2016 4 News Allied inquiry yet to finalise Hillman report SAVIOUR BALZAN A report by an internal board of inquiry set up by Allied News- papers into allegations of kick- backs to its former managing director, is to be finalised soon according to inquiry head Gio- vanni Bonello, judge emeritus. Bonello was tasked by the Allied group to head the in- quiry into allegations of kick- backs from Keith Schembri, the prime minister's chief of staff and owner of the Kasco busi- ness group, for the provision of printing machinery and the supply of newsprint to Progress Press, which is owned by Allied. Managing director Adrian Hillman has since resigned his position, but the allegations concern documented evidence that Schembri and Hillman separately created two offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands some five months apart in 2012. Another Progress Press contractor, Pierre Sladden of Redmap, also opened his own offshore BVI company shortly after. But two months since the al- legations of impropriety were made by Malta Independent columnist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, Hillman had not yet been summoned by Bonello to the board of inquiry. Caruana Galizia alleged that Hillman used his influence with the editorial staff of The Times, which is published by Allied Newspapers, to favour the La- bour Party during the 2013 elec- tion, because Keith Schembri – who by then had become Joseph Muscat's campaign manager – supplied Progress Press with newsprint. Schembri later was appointed chief of staff to the prime min- ister in March 2013. The editors at The Times and The Sunday Times denied any pressure. But Hillman's BVI company, set up just months after Schembri set up his own, fuelled suspicions of kickbacks. Hillman had willingly stepped down from his post as manag- ing director within days of the allegations being made, denying having taken any bribes from Schembri. Hillman has denied taking any kickbacks from Schembri. Hill- man was very close with the de Marco family and was also a close friend of Mario de Mar- co, a member of the Strickland Foundation which owns a ma- jority stake in the group. On his part, Giovanni Bonello skirted questions on whether the investigation extends to other senior management and directors, or past directors. And he did not say whether Hillman, still a company director at Al- lied, would be reinstated if alle- gations are not proven. Other members of the board of inquiry include Kevin Valen- zia, senior partner at Pricewa- terhouseCoopers, auditors of Allied; Paul Mercieca, and law- yer Kevin F. Dingli, whose name is associated with the direc- torships of at least 16 offshore companies in Panama such as Jade Development SA, Emerald Connection SA, Sapphire As- sets SA, and Pearl Shipholding SA, amongst others. Cardona: No IIP conflict for me MAT THEW VELLA THE minister for the economy, Chris Cardona, has denied hav- ing a conflict of interest over the fact that the partner in the law firm he formed part of in 2013, is an agent for the sale of Maltese citizenship under the Individual Investor Pro- gramme. Lawyer Mark Vassallo's ser- vices are still styled under CV Advocates – or 'Cardona & Vassallo' – although the min- ister, who is now running for the Labour Party's deputy lead- ership, denies that this former association places him in any conflict. As minister, Cardona is not directly responsible for the In- dividual Investor Programme, which sells passports to the global rich for €650,000. But in previous engagements, he has made reference to both the IIP and other residence pro- grammes during speeches pro- moting Malta's economic mile- stones. "There is no conflict of inter- est. The IIP programme does not fall within the remit of the Ministry for the Economy, In- vestment and Small Business and as you may appreciate as a member of this government I promote any initiative that may contribute to the unprec- edented success the Maltese economy has been achieving," Cardona said. Vassallo is also a lawyer for the Public Broadcasting Ser- vices. "From the moment I was appointed minister I resigned from the legal practice and stopped practising as a lawyer. As you rightly pointed out, the office is now the responsibility of another lawyer. All my in- come has been declared in my declaration of assets, where it is also shown that I receive a rent for the lease of the offices of CV advocates." In his declaration of assets, Cardona lists three proper- ties in Madliena, Zabbar and the Birkirkara office; his 25% shareholding in Sapmac, which includes construction develop- er and Labour donor Carmelo Penza, and €112,000 in bank deposits. Scerri awarded top public job CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 While the inquiry prompted a call for Mal- lia to resign, the minister refused and he was dismissed by the prime minister. His staff – 19 employees – however were moved to other gov- ernment posts, with Scerri taking up sojourn in the private secretariat of home affairs minister Carmelo Abela with duties in Gozo, former private secretary Quinton Scerri put on the PBS payroll on business management, and spokesperson Ramona Attard being detailed with the Office of the Prime Minister. Scerri was not reappointed on Mallia's staff since the Labour MP was reappointed to the competi- tiveness ministry in the Cabinet reshuffle prompted by the Panama Papers. But he has now taken up a lucra- tive post in Transport Malta, one that paid his predecessor Ernest Tonna – a canvasser for the for- mer minister Austin Gatt – over €50,000 as a recent parliamentary question revealed. Scerri appears to have divested himself of any directorial or share- holding in Nexos, the lighting com- pany which he was formerly associ- ated with. After the Sheehan affair, his con- tact with Mallia – whose 2013 elec- toral campaign he had been part of – decreased. Scerri has been criticised for his overweening power when acting as chief of staff for Mallia, who had control of the police force as well as public broadcasting. He fended off accusations that he was responsible for using his influence to deny a po- lice permit to boxer Scott Dixon's exhibition match, because the box- er had been in a relationship with Scerri's ex-wife. And he was described in court by TV presenter John Bundy as "shed- ding a bad light on the home affairs ministry", in a lawsuit Scerri filed against Bundy, who outed the chief of staff as having ordered the rede- ployment of TVM presenter Nor- man Vella to his civil service post- ing in the immigration department from where he had been seconded to the public broadcaster. Vella went on to contest on the Nation- alist ticket for the European Parlia- ment elections. Once upon a time: Manuel Mallia (left) with Scerri

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