Former Malta PM Joseph Muscat in New Casino-Linked Corruption Scandal

Former Malta PM Joseph Muscat in New Casino-Linked Corruption Scandal

29 May 2023 ( Casino )

Joseph Muscat, the former prime minister of Malta — who was forced out of office following the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia — is facing a new scandal involving a different casino. Media outlet Times of Malta has found that he once received a massive consultancy deal with someone tied to the Dragonara Casino.

While he was in office, Muscat gave Dragonara a free pass. The government drastically reduced the land lease for the property and locked in a real estate lease for over six decades. The initial lease from 2010 was to be for only 10 years, but Muscat’s government unilaterally extended it another 64 years as of 2020.

The approval came without a public tender, despite Dragonara having been awarded the first license through a tender. Only months later, Muscat resigned as PM of Malta amid public pressure over corruption in the government, including by his own doing.

A Quick Rebound

Three months after the resignation, although he was still part of the Maltese parliament, Muscat began his work as a consultant for Organicum Limited, an “exotic bird” company. In return, he received €11,800 (US$12,660) a month.

The company apparently never had any success – before or after Muscat became a part of it. However, that didn’t stop Johann Schembri from sending him money regularly. Schembri is the managing director of Dragonara, and also a shareholder in the company.

The allegation that Muscat’s “consultancy” is nothing more than an attempt to cover up corruption payments surfaced following another similar case. He is currently the center of an investigation for which he received €15,000 (US$16,077) a month to provide consultancy services to a company that received a lucrative Maltese hospital contract.

As far as Muscat and Schembri are concerned, there are no improprieties. Muscat claims he was performing a legitimate service to Organicum, and any assertion to the contrary is nothing more than a witch hunt designed to disparage him.

Schembri specifically said in comments to Times of Malta that “Dragonara Gaming Limited has never paid any consultancy fees to [Dr.] Joseph Muscat.”

Muscat, who became the chairman of the Malta Professional Football Clubs Association last year, has alleged ties to Yorgen Fenech, a casino entrepreneur in Malta. Fenech reportedly ordered the hit on Galizia as she began to uncover widespread corruption from the top of the government down to the bottom ranks and into the private sector.

Dragonara’s Ties to PO Box 3469

A theory has surfaced through a series of publications on Medium that allegedly – and only loosely – ties Dragonara to the former KGB, Russia’s secret service, and well-known companies currently active in the gaming industry. Wanting to keep his identity concealed for obvious reasons, user “Felt” paints a vivid picture of various relationships that can be traced to “PO Box 3469.” Specifically, Geneva Place, Waterfront Drive, PO Box 3469, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

The PO Box in question is used by a number of companies in different registration forms. One is Dragonara Alliance, a data center in Zurich, Switzerland behind the online payments platform Perfect Money. Dragonara Alliance, according to the trails “Felt” has put together, reportedly has close monetary ties to Malta’s Dragonara.

Felt makes it clear that the “information presented should be considered raw data” and that connections may be just the result of coincidence. However, PO Box 3469 is connected to Russian private investment company Alfa Group, counter-terrorism and ransom consultancy company Neil Young Associates, Dragonara Alliance and others.

Peeling back the layers of the different organizations that share the address, Felt believes he has uncovered possible links that make the global gaming ecosystem nothing more than a facade for manipulation and corruption. On the other hand, the connections might be less profound than the six degrees of separation.