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Archive for Malta

Newsline: China alleged to use Malta’s EU embassy for spying

Belgian secret services have been worried “for years” that Dar Malta has been harbouring technical means installed by the Chinese to spy on European institutions, according to French daily Le Monde. The French news outlet wrote that suspicions stem from a renovation project ahead of the 2007 opening of Malta’s EU embassy. Suspicions about Chinese spying were first transmitted to the Belgian authorities around 2010, Le Monde said. (https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/did-china-use-maltas-eu-embassy-for-spying.792260) The alarm was reportedly sounded by British intelligence, who said Chinese secret services were involved in the Maltese embassy’s renovation. Furniture and certain fittings for the prominent embassy in Brussels, which is a stone’s throw away from major EU institutions, were shipped from China to the Belgian capital as part of a $300,000 cooperation agreement. A Times of Malta source said the agreement was not specific to the Dar Malta project. The source said that all wooden furniture donated by the Chinese had been thoroughly scanned prior to installation.

Newsline: Malta diplomat in Finland quits after comparing Merkel and Hitler

Malta’s ambassador to Finland resigned on Sunday after he came under fire for comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler, Malta’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said in an emailed statement. “When accepting the ambassador’s resignation with immediate effect, Minister Evarist Bartolo stressed that the ambassador’s comments on German Chancellor Angela Merkel were not representative of the friendship and mutual respect between Malta and Germany,” the statement said. Michael Zammit Tabona wrote in a Facebook post on Friday, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, that “75 years ago we stopped Hitler. Who will stop Angela Merkel? She has fulfilled Hitler’s dream! To control Europe”. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/malta-diplomat-finland-quits-comparing-merkel-hitler-200511084324160.html) Zammit Tabona, a businessman and political appointee who was appointed in 2014, could not be contacted for comment. Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo told the Times of Malta that an apology would be sent to the German embassy. Zammit Tabona’s Facebook post has since been deleted; he has not commented on the issue.

Newsline: Libyan embassy employee among three charged with drug trafficking in Malta

Three suspected drug-traffickers – one of the them an employee at the Libyan embassy – have been granted bail following their arraignment under arrest on Thursday. Tristen Kyle Pisani, 25, of Tarxien, a technician, Annajar Osama Soleman, 40, of Għargħur, working at the Libyan embassy, and Boulqassim Khalleefah Aboulqassim Almigheerbi, 32, of Swieqi, unemployed, pleaded not guilty to their alleged involvement in a drug-trafficking conspiracy and to the possession of cocaine under circumstances which indicated that the drug was not for their personal use. Inspector Justine Grech, handling the prosecution, explained how the arrests had come about after a tip-off about an underhand drug deal about to take place in Kirkop on Tuesday. Officers converging upon the indicated site came across all three men seated inside a vehicle, later found to be registered in the name of the wife of one of the suspects. The two Libyans were seated in front, while the Maltese man sat at the back. A search of the vehicle yielded a bag containing some one and a half kilos of cocaine, while €63,000 in cash were found stacked under the passenger seat.


Newsline: Embassy of Malta to Libya to return to Tripoli

Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carmelo Abela, said that the Embassy of Malta to Libya will soon return to the capital Tripoli and that a new Maltese Ambassador to Libya will be appointed. Abela made his remarks during a meeting with the Libyan UN-backed prime minister in the Libyan capital Tripoli. According to the media office of the Libyan Prime Minister, the meeting discussed mutual relations between the two countries, where Abela stressed Malta’s full support for Serraj’s government and his efforts to achieve national reconciliation and consensus in Libya.


Newsline: Malta ‘continues to keep’ Tripoli embassy

The Maltese government reiterated its support to the Libyan people and pledged to continue to be engaged over the Libyan crisis. Malta has kept and continues to keep its embassy open in Tripoli demonstrating solidarity with all Libyans, said Foreign Affairs Minister George Vella. Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has also called for disarmament and, speaking in Arabic during the UN debate, he also said that the families and the children of Libya deserved a future. Malta, who is directly affected by the conflict in Libya, has appealed to the UN to help bring together the different factions round the table.


Newsline: Malta’s court stops government from dismissing diplomat

The First Hall of the Civil Court stopped the government from dismissing Dr Antoinette Cutajar from her job as a diplomat in the public service. The decision was taken by Madam Justice Edwina Grima after Dr Cutajar submitted a request for a prohibitory injunction against the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Foreign Minister George Vella, the principal permanent secretary Mario Cutajar and the Attorney General. In handing down its decision, the court said Dr Cutajar had been employed on an indefinite contract and the government could not unilaterally dismiss her. The government had argued that Dr Cutajar had been employed on the basis of trust by the previous administration and not by public call. The diplomat, however, said that in 2007 a European Commission directive was issued requiring all those who had been employed on a year-on-year contractual basis for more than four years to be given an indefinite contract.


Newsline: Maltese consul in Libya probed in investigation over ‘massive’ visa scam

Malta’s consul in Tripoli Dr Marisa Farrugia has been recalled back to Malta for urgent police questioning, after police took action in a request by the government over documented evidence of extensive fraud in the Maltese embassy, in the issuing of travel visas for Libyans. Farrugia arrived in Malta and was interrogated by senior police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department in Floriana, where she was questioned over allegations of fraud in the issue of hundreds of Maltese visas to Libyan nationals. The investigations took place after a number of Maltese companies claimed that their business letterheads were being falsified for recommendations and the official invitations used for the issuing of a visa for Libyan businessmen. The scam appears to have been an ongoing affair, with allegations that someone in the Maltese embassy in Tripoli was responsible and directly involved in the crime – in conjunction with a criminal gang. A Libyan criminal ring appears to have been responsible in approaching Libyans businessmen and offering them an immediate Maltese visa for €1,500.


Newsline: German diplomat’s wife accused of harassing taxi driver in Malta

Ihssane Larhzali is accused of attempting to use force against taxi driver Fabian Mifsud, harassing Mifsud and damaging his vehicle. The 34-year-old Moroccan national, who resides in Sliema is married to a German diplomat and enjoyed diplomatic immunity. However the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany has waived her immunity in view of her court case. Larhzali explained how in the early hours of 26 May she was in Paceville with her friends. Exiting the group stopped next to a parked Taxi. “The big taxi guy shouted at me and insulted me in Maltese, expecting me to move from the car. I repeatedly told him that I was not damaging his vehicle however he grabbed me by the hand, threw me on the floor and assaulted me. I kicked him in his private parts to defend myself,” the witness said. After the incident Larhzali called for police assistance, telling the operator “unless you send officers to help I will call my embassy for assistance”. The victim filed a police report, and said she never drinks alcohol and had not touched the vehicle. 25-year-old taxi driver Fabian Mifsud, of Msida, told the court that he saw Larhzali and her friends approach his vehicle, and the woman leaned against his taxi. “Today’s cars are easily damaged so I told her to move away, but she refused and insisted she won’t do any damage. I repeatedly asked her to move away but she started shouting and threatening me she would get me in trouble because she was a diplomat,” he told the court. Mifsud said that he grabbed the woman from her hand to pull her off his car, but she started hitting him with the handbag and kicking him. Magistrate Ian Farrugia put off the case for 5 December for judgment.


Newsline: Migrants say Swedish embassy ‘indirectly’ told them to travel illegally

A group of immigrants who survived the latest tragic sinking in the Mediterranean claim they made the voyage after being denied visas by the Swedish embassy in Tripoli. “They told us they could not give us visas, so indirectly we were being told that to be granted asylum we had to leave Libya illegally and make our way to Sweden,” Syrian national Imad Hasan told Times of Malta yesterday. “It is this illogical thinking that almost forces people like me to embark on such a voyage.” The 47-year-old university graduate considers himself “very lucky” his whole family was alive and that he, his wife Amal and their three children, Belal, 12, Bara, 10, and Ula, six, all survived the voyage, in which dozens of migrants perished. Mr Hasan said that the boat started to get into trouble when Libyan militiamen shot at it “for hours”. Asked what made him leave Libya where he was living for three months after fleeing the war in Syria, Mr Hasan said: “The living conditions are desperate. We just couldn’t continue living there. There is no future for my children.


Newsline: US embassy employee in Malta sent home after dispute

An American employee of the U.S. Embassy in Malta has been sent home after getting into a nasty dispute with a Maltese driver that was videotaped and posted on YouTube. The U.S. Embassy said Wednesday that the unidentified employee “did not comport with the standards of behavior that we expect from all embassy personnel.” It didn’t say if he had been fired, just that he had “departed.” The incident occurred Saturday. The American challenged the Maltese driver after their two cars came nose to nose on a narrow street in the town of St. Julian’s. With neither conceding passage, the American got out of his car and launched into a tirade of expletive-laden abuse and tried to open the other driver’s locked door. Eventually, the American backed out.