Identity Malta chief avoids questions put by this website

Published: July 29, 2015 at 9:15pm

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Yesterday afternoon, a reader of this website drove down the original part of The Gardens (Oleander Street area) in St Julian’s and spotted the executive chairman of Identity Malta, Joe Vella Bonnici (white shirt and tie), accompanied by his son Marc, who is the Labour mayor of Haz-Zabbar (pink T-shirt) and also the Labour Party’s international secretary, showing a non-Maltese-looking couple round the street and indicating houses to them.

The reader turned at the end of the road, drove back down again, and took these photographs (through a dirty windscreen, so apologies for that).

Identity Malta is responsible for processing the applications of those who apply to buy Maltese citizenship under what they call ‘the Individual Investor Programme’, which it administers. Part of that involves acquiring an address in Malta through the purchase or lease of a house or flat.

So is the executive chairman doubling up as an estate agent, in conflict with his role, and making a little commission on the side, perhaps through his son Marc?

This afternoon I rang the executive chairman at the offices of Identity Malta, for his side of the story and a proper explanation. I don’t want some bunch of idiots going on about “allegations” because they can’t read things properly.

The woman who took the phone told me he wasn’t in – that he was out for meetings and wouldn’t be back. I left my name and suggested that she takes my number and a request to ring me back when convenient.

She popped off, and returned with the information that she couldn’t a message or give me his mobile number, but was told to give me his email address so that I could contact him by email.

I immediately sent the following email.

Dear Mr Vella Bonnici,

I have tried to reach you by telephone at your office but was told you were out. I tried to leave a message with my number and a request that you call me back, but was told that it wasn’t possible though I could have your email address.

Yesterday afternoon you were seen at The Gardens in St Julian’s, accompanied by your son Marc, the mayor of Haz-Zabbar, and a non-Maltese couple, looking at houses there.

The person who saw you also photographed you in that context.

Given that you are the executive chairman of Identity Malta, which processes applications for the purchase of Maltese citizenship which are in turn dependent on the acquisition of property in Malta, please explain the purpose of your presence in that street with those people.

If I am satisfied that it was an entirely private and personal matter, then of course I will not carry the story at all nor upload the photographs. I do not wish to upload the photographs without an explanation from you unless no explanation is forthcoming.

You may reach me on 9949 3545 at any time.

Thank you.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Two minutes later, I thought, well, in for a penny, in for a pound, and I sent another email with some equally pressing questions.

Dear Mr Vella Bonnici,

It has been brought to my attention that your brother, Tano Vella Bonnici, and your sister, Dorothy Pace, have been recruited by Identity Malta, the state organisation of which you are executive chairman.

1. In what role have they been recruited? Was there a public call for applications for the posts?

2. Do you think it is correct for the chairman of a state organisation to recruit his own siblings, even if there is a public call and an interview process?

3. I am informed that Tano Vella Bonnici was asked to leave his employment at Ecopur, a subsidiary of the Farsons Group, because of misuse of company funds. Is this correct, and if so, should somebody with that employment record be engaged at Identity Malta?

4. Tano Vella Bonnici is 63 and presumably in receipt of a state pension. Should somebody in that position be recruited to the detriment of those who are of working age?

I would appreciate your clarification by email or telephone (at any time) on 9949 3545.

Thank you.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

In the interim, I had succeeded in obtaining the executive chairman’s mobile phone number, so when I received no reply to those emails, not even an acknowledgement saying “I’ll be in touch about this later”, I rang him. He didn’t pick up.

So I sent a text message: This is Daphne Caruana Galizia, Mr Vella Bonnici. Will you be replying to my questions sent by email? I would like to have your explanation.

There was no reply, so around an hour ago I rang again. This time there was no way he wasn’t picking up because he thought I was some annoying random caller, because he had my number via the text message. I let it ring and he didn’t pick up.

I’ll follow up tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you are reading this, Mr Vella Bonnici, please ring or email your reply at any time and I will upload it immediately.