MFSA task independent panel to probe ethics breach by CEO, legal counsel on Vegas trip

The board of governors of the Malta Financial Services Regulator tasks a former chief justice and lawyer to assess potential ethics breach of CEO Joseph Cuschieri and legal counsel Edwina Licari following trip with Yorgen Fenech


Malta’s financial services regulator has tasked an independent panel to investigate a potential breach of ethics surrounding a trip to Las Vegas by its CEO and legal counsel.

The board of governors of the Malta Financial Services Authority tasked former chief justice Joe Azzopardi and lawyer Mark Simiana to “carry out the assessment process in an expeditious manner”.

The panel has to “carry out necessary verifications with regard to a breach of ethics”, the MFSA board said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Once the necessary assessments are concluded by the panel, recommendations will be presented to the Board of Governors for a final decision to be taken on both cases,” the MFSA said in a statement posted on its website.

The decision follows the auto-suspension of CEO Joseph Cuschieri and legal counsel Edwina Licari last Friday after news emerged of a Las Vegas trip with magnate Yorgen Fenech in May 2018.

Cuschieri has insisted he went on the trip to advise Fenech on regulatory aspects related to the gaming industry. He has denied having a conflict of interest since he had already stepped down as Gaming Authority CEO at the time of the trip.

However, Cuschieri was at the time the MFSA’s chief executive.

At the time of the trip, Licari was still an employee of the Gaming Authority. She has not released any statement.

Fenech owns casinos through the Tumas Group, a family company, and paid all the expenses related to the Las Vegas trip.

A former Office of the Prime Minister staffer and one-time secretary to Keith Schembri, Charlene Bianco Farrugia, was also on the Las Vegas trip.

The MFSA statement added: “The Board of Governors of the MFSA is responsible for establishing the policies and risk parameters to be pursued by the Authority. The Board is bound by confidentiality and, in this regard, every single member of the Board categorically refutes that he or she gave any comments to the media. Information is issued only collectively as a Board.”

The board reaffirmed its commitment that the MFSA’s management and staff “remain totally focused on the implementation of the Authority’s vision and strategy to ensure proper consumer protection and a safer and sounder financial system”.

The MFSA on Friday appointed Christopher Buttigieg as acting CEO

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