A former Enemalta Chief Officer who accepted gifts from an oil trader who was bidding in the Enemalta oil procurement tender process, in a scandal that shook Malta in 2013, is now the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) Head of Compliance and Regulatory.
Raymond Ferris, who was appointed to his current position in May 2019, during Konrad Mizzi’s tenure as Ministry of Tourism, was in 2015 charged with corruption, fraud and trading in influence, for which he was not found guilty, but his behaviour was deemed “unethical” by the Court.
The Malta Independent on Sunday asked current Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, Chairman of MTA, Gavin Gulia and CEO of MTA, Johann Buttigieg, if they believe Ferris should occupy this type of role, considering his past unethical affairs. Farrugia Portelli simply replied that Ferris will return to his former employment in a month, as he was seconded at the MTA, a position which she said he held since May of last year.
The ministry’s and MTA’s knowledge of Ferris’s past affairs was neither confirmed, nor denied.
Ferris’s former employment is not known as, after the oil scandal broke out, he was sacked from Enemalta. This newsroom is also informed that Ferris was told that he will be returning to his former employment just a few days after this newsroom sent questions about him.
A scandal that gripped the country
On 10 February 2013, oil trader, George Farrugia was granted a presidential pardon to reveal a convoluted bribery network for oil procurement involving Enemalta.
Farrugia had told the police, and eventually repeated in court, that Ferris had asked for €40,000 to influence the adjudication board in Enemalta’s petroleum division’s privatisation – a claim which Ferris denied.
Ferris was then accused of having received three silver trays from Farrugia. Both the first Court and the Court of Appeal did not find Ferris guilty of corruption charges, saying that Farrugia had gifted them under no obligation.
Farrugia said that apart from the previously mentioned €40,000 bribe, he specifically asked for the silverware to be gifted to the board members, which he bought using his a credit account of his company, Powerplan Limited.
It turned out that Ferris had then kept all three silver trays, taken them to Azzopardi Jewellers, and exchanged them for another antique tray and other items. This tray was then seized as evidence after being found in the accused’s home.
Whilst the Court concluded that Ferris had at no point accepted to participate in any discussions related to the tender Farrugia had wanted to speak to him about, he had accepted silverware as a gift. This Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera had said was unethical behaviour.
MTA enforcement responsibilities – fines and prison
The law allows the MTA to monitor and review all tourism operations to ensure that they are carried out per the law. The public officer responsible for enforcement has the right, at all reasonable times, to enter and inspect any tourism operation, other than a tourist guide.
The Malta Travel and Tourism Services Act stipulates that if the authority finds a tourism operation without a licence, or in breach of licence conditions, or breach of the law even if licensed, or circumstances have arisen which justify the revocation of the licence, a notice is served, so as the operation is stopped.
This can then result, for offences stipulated in the law, in a fine of not less than €1,164.49 and not more than €23,293.73, and for certain offences that persist for more than three months, imprisonment for a term of not less than three months and not more than three years.