The European Commission has refused to answer questions on the EU implications of the recently revealed Maltese driving licence racket, which saw high-ranking officials and ministers push those loyal to the ruling Labour Party to the front of the queue for exams or get ‘help’ in ensuring a pass.
Under EU rules, those holding a valid Maltese licence are free to use it throughout the European Union as rules, requirements and standards are supposed to be harmonised between the 27 member states.
The Times of Malta recently revealed that government ministers and other officials fed names to the Transport Malta Licensing director, Clint Mansueto, to ‘help’ them obtain driving licences.
Despite voluminous evidence, the government has denied corruption, and the police are yet to announce action publicly.
This creates a situation whereby those who have gained a Maltese licence without actually passing the exam can drive throughout Europe, presenting a risk to other road users and violating EU law.
The Shift contacted the Commission’s transport department with several questions related to the scandal.
These included details of what action the Commission can take to ensure those holding a Maltese licence got it lawfully and can, therefore, drive in the EU, whether they have had contact with the Maltese authorities on the issue, and for a comment on the lack of condemnation from Prime Minister Robert Abela.
The Commission was also asked about their view on the apparent lack of police investigation, considering that the unlawful issuance of driving licences violates Malta’s obligations at an EU level.
A spokesperson responded by saying they “doubt we will be in a position to make any comments at this point, particularly given the ongoing national investigation,” adding they would be in touch if this changed.
The spokesperson failed to reply when pressed on two more general questions that would not impact any investigation.
When the scandal, supported by tranches of WhatsApp messages, emails and other documents, was made public, Abela defended those involved, including former transport minister Ian Borg, who is directly implicated. Borg is now foreign affairs minister.
“That is the way the political system works. If anyone says this should not apply to this country, I disagree,” the prime minister said.
He continued that each ministry, including his office, had officials responsible for helping people with their everyday needs.
“The way the minister acted is what is expected of any minister and secretariat,” adding that this also applied to education and health.
Local stakeholders, including Doctors for Road Safety, have said all licences should be reviewed for road safety if the allegations are proven.
Last week, NGO Repubblika asked the country’s police commissioner to file charges against seven individuals, adding the police have had evidence since 2021. Yet, so far, the police have not made a move.
Same system, different institution
Through separate investigations, The Shift established a new ‘system’, which has been informally put in place at ARMS to satisfy ministerial demands.
According to independent MEP Arnold Cassola and information given to The Shift, the names of consumers who present their ARMS final notices to OPM officials are recommended to the state utility institution to be given a second, third, or even fourth chance to settle their long-overdue bills.
Sources say that the final decision on this ‘extra help’ is being taken by Marisa Ciappara, the Financial Controller of ARMS, who incidentally is also the Financial Controller of the Labour Party.