Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

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 likely to be first in EU to open Libya mission

Malta will likely become the first EU member to open an embassy in Libya, its premier said Wednesday as he visited Tripoli in a show of support for the UN-backed unity government. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is the first head of a European government to travel to Libya since the UN-backed Government of National Accord arrived in Tripoli five weeks ago. “We’ll probably become the first (EU) country to return,” Muscat said after meeting GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj. But he stressed his country “requires guarantees” before it can press ahead with the plan to open a diplomatic mission. Many countries closed their Libyan embassies in 2014 when conflict broke out between two rival administrations in the North African nation. But several European states have announced they are considering reopening them following the arrival of the unity government on March 30. The island of Malta is the nearest European neighbour of Libya, located about only 300 kilometres (185 miles) from its shores.


Newsline: Malaysia Sends First Ambassador To The Vatican, Albania and Malta

Malaysia is appointing an ambassador to the Vatican whose portfolio would also include diplomatic relations with Malta and Albania. The ambassador, Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok will be the first Malaysian Ambassador appointed to the Vatican. Mr Dompok’s appointment has been confirmed by Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman. His office is expected to be based in Rome. Maltese travellers to Malaysia will now be able to apply for a visa through the Malaysian Embassy at the Vatican. Mr Dompok is the former Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah and was Federal Minister from 2004 until 2013.


Newsline: Malta denies reports of embassy closure in Tripoli

The foreign ministry has denied media reports that Malta’s ambassador to Libya Mannie Galea has been declared a persona non grata by the Islamist-led government of Tripoli. Libya is currently locked in a civil conflict which has generally been split over the configuration of two parliaments, with its government ‘in exile’ based in Tobruk and led by Prime Minister Al Thinni after being ousted from the capital of Tripoli. “Ambassador Galea has been asked to come to Malta for consultations already some weeks ago as is usual practice. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Malta declares that as of now, there is no intention to send any Ambassador of Malta to Tobruk,” the government said. It also denied that Malta intended closing down the embassy in Tripoli. “A Charge d’Affaires ad interim will be available during the Maltese Ambassador’s absence from Tripoli.”


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.