Is Malta covering up Azerbaijani bribery?

A former policeman in Malta claims that he was fired from his job for investigating large payments made by powerful Azerbaijanis to prominent Maltese politicians.

Speaking to Tom Kingston of the Times of London, former investigator Jonathan Ferris says that he uncovered millions of euros in bribes funneled from Azerbaijan to Malta in return for kickbacks on gas deals. According to Ferris, this investigation of high-level corruption led to his termination from the financial crimes unit of the Maltese police.

“I will fight to get this information out, which is really damaging for the state and for the politicians and other government officials involved,” said Ferris, who is currently suing Malta’s financial intelligence analysis unit for unfair dismissal. Prevented by secrecy laws from naming names, the Times says that Ferris plans to release documents in court which will allegedly prove his claims. Meanwhile, Malta’s attorney general is fighting to hold the legal proceedings behind closed doors.

Ferris claims that the payments from Azerbaijan to Malta were facilitated by Pilatus Bank and other financial institutions, but Pilatus declined to respond to the Times’s repeated requests for comment.

The former policeman’s accusations would seem to support the conclusions of murdered investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Caruana Galizia, who died in a car bomb explosion on 16 October, alleged that Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife had received about $1 million from Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. Muscat denies the allegations.

Caruana Galizia also accused Keith Schembri, the prime minister’s chief of staff, and energy minister Konrad Mizzi, of accepting illicit money from Azerbaijan. Schembri and Mizzi both deny the allegations.

Prime Minister Muscat’s spokesman called accusations that Caruana Galizia’s death was political “total madness.” Muscat himself has stated that, although the journalist was “a harsh critic of [his] both politically and personally,” her murder was unjustifiable.

Police have yet to solve the case, but some have linked Caruana Galizia’s murder to alleged Maltese fuel smuggler Darren Debono, who was arrested by Sicilian police the week Caruana Galizia was killed. Before her death, the journalist claimed that Debono had threatened her by email. A former football star, Debono is currently under house arrest in Sicily.

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