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Malta News Briefing – Friday 20 November

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Updated 1745- News Portal Briefing

Times of Malta reports a company involved in a joint investment with Enemalta to develop and operate a multi-million data hub in an underground installation at Marsa, has been ordered to pay the energy provider some €158,047 in outstanding debts.

MaltaToday says that a bus driver with former public transport operator Arriva has been cleared of misappropriation after he was accused of tampering with the ticketing system.

Newsbook says that deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne has been chosen to form part of One Health Global Leaders Group, the government announced on Friday.

TVM reports that the first office for the Commissioner of Laws has been inaugurated in Strait Street, Valletta.

Updated 1245 – Covid-19 Update

Health authorities reported 121 new cases of coronavirus. With 105 persons recovering, the total number of active cases now stands at 2167. 3,337 swab tests were carried out in the past 24 hours.

In her weekly briefing, Health Superintendent Prof Charmaine Gauci said that 13 people were being treated in the intensive treatment unit at Mater Dei, while a further 15 are in the infectious diseases unit. Of the clusters of active cases, most were being identified from households, with 138 cases, then workplaces (60) followed by arrivals from other countries (13) and social gatherings (4). 

Updated 1200

Unemployment up by 1,448 in one year

In October, the number of persons registering for work stood at 3,114, increasing by 1,448 when compared to the corresponding month in 2019.

Statistics published by NSO this morning for October 2020 indicate a year-on-year increase of 1,321 persons registering under Part I and an additional 127 persons registering under Part II of the unemployment
register.

Those registering for work for less than 21 weeks and those registering between 21 and 52 weeks, increased when compared to October 2019 levels. The largest increase was recorded among persons who had been registering between 21 and 52 weeks. On the other hand, those who had been registering for work for more than one year, decreased when compared to the same month in 2019.

Police Commissioner says Caruana Galizia murder motive not yet identified

Angelo Gafà, the police commissioner appointed to the role five months ago, revealed this morning that police have not yet identified the motive behind the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bomb three years ago, even though four people have been charged in the case.

Testifying in front of the public inquiry looking into whether the State could have prevented this murder, Gafa said that “The murder itself, the financial aspect. Investigations still ongoing and the motive is still not quite clear. We want to get to the motive.”

In an hour-long testimony, Gafa defended the failed attempt by the authorities to secure information from Dubai regarding 17Black, insisting that no intentional error was so far identified.

Third Sliema murder suspect to be arraigned today

The third suspect in the Sliema double murder will be arraigned later on this morning, the police said in a statement. Jesper Kristiansen, a Danish citizen, was extradited to Malta from Madrid on Thursday. He had been arrested in Cadiz in late August. The Dane had been identified as the third suspect in the murder of Christian Pandolfino and Ivor Maciejowski.

The men were shot dead inside their Sliema home last August. The police have so far indicated that the murder resulted from a failed robbery.

Updated 0850 – Newspaper Review

The Independent says that new rules for the passport by investment scheme will be published today, granting citizenship after three years of residency. Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat said the government will stand its ground before the European Commission.

The Times quotes Citizenship Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat who said that the government will pursue all legal paths to defend Malta’s cash for passports scheme. The EU Commission has expressed misgivings about the system.

L-Orizzont says that magisterial inquiries into deaths of prison inmates have exonerated the prison administration of any culpability. The latest case in a series of deaths happened this week when a 25-year-old man was discovered lifeless in his cell.

In-Nazzjon leads with the extradition of a Danish man accused with involvement in the killing of Chris Pandolfino and Ivor Maciejowski in August. Jesper Kristiansen was arrested by the police in Madrid following a European arrest warrant.

L-Orizzont says that three men have been cleared by the courts of keeping journalists against their will inside Castille in November last year. Magistrate Joseph Mifsud said there was not enough evidence by the prosecution to support the case.

The Times reports that Finance Minister Edward Scicluna will step down at the end of the year to be assigned Central Bank Governor. A statement by the government thanked Scicluna for his ‘impeccable work’ in the past seven years.

The Independent quotes a government statement announcing that Central Bank Governor Mario Vella is to be appointed special commissioner for trade relations with the UK, making way for Edward Scicluna.

In-Nazzjon says that the role of Central Bank Governor was offered to outgoing Finance Minister Edward Scicluna after he refused to resign. The paper says indications are now that Prime Minister Robert Abela is ready to announce a Cabinet reshuffle.

L-Orizzont reports that the government is disbursing some €11.7 million to over 7,700 workers who have ‘suffered injustices’ in the past, including police officers, port workers and their heirs, and former government Corps workers.

In-Nazzjon announces that Michael Piccinino has been elected PN Organising Secretary by the party executive committee. The lawyer now becomes part of the party’s administrative council and leadership committee. 

Covid-19 Update

Two more men died of Covid-19, health authorities announced in the now-daily evening update. The first case concerned a man, who at 75, was diagnosed on November 2 and died late on Wednesday at the Good Samaritan Long-term Care Facility. The second case involved another man, who at 73, was diagnosed on November 11 and died on Thursday at Mater Dei Hospital.

The number of deaths now reached 106 from 45 a month ago.

Edward Scicluna proposed as new CBM Governor

The Government of Malta announced that Dr Mario Vella is to be appointed Special Commissioner for Economic, Financial and Trade Relations with the United Kingdom. This in view of the fact that, on 1st January 2021, the transitional period of Brexit will come to an end. New regulations will come into force in different sectors which will have a significant impact on our country. 

Following approval by the European Central Bank for this appointment, Dr Vella will resign as Governor of the Central Bank with effect from 31st December 2020. As a result of this decision, the Government is proposing to the European Central Bank that Professor Edward Scicluna be appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Malta. 

In order to be able to start this process, Prof Scicluna will resign as Minister of Finance in the coming days, and as a member of the Maltese Parliament by the end of the year.

PN to reprimand Azzopardi on Tel Aviv stay

The PN’s Discipinary Commission concluded that the Party’s Spokesperson for Justice, Jason Azzopardi, broke ethics rules when accepting payment of a hotel stay from Raymond Fenech of the Tumas Group in March 2017.

It however arguedthat said that without in any way condoning the breach of ethics, it had no doubt that the gift, consisting in a three-night stay at the Hilton in Tel Aviv did not influence Azzopardi in his role, including the cause he has taken up against the institutionalisation of criminality and corruption even when the target of his criticism were and still are the members of the Tumas Group.

The commission therefore recommended to the PN Administrative Council that Azzopardi be reprimanded. Later, The council in a statement said it agreed with the recommendation. 

Malta to fight EU investigation on passport scheme

Malta is prepared to defend at the European Court of Justice to defend a the so-called citizenship-by-investment scheme.

Government Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat said that Malta stands its ground against the infringement proceedings and will take all legal paths to defend its name on the matter.

“Malta is willing to take all legal paths to ensure nationality and citizenship remain a member state’s competence, and will defend this position even if the case is taken to the ECJ,” Muscat said.

Despite this challenge, Muscat confirmed that hat the publication of new regulations on Friday should address the commission’s concerns. It is understood that under new rules, the names of those who lose their Maltese citizenship will start being published along with those who get a Maltese passport.

 CDE News

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