British foreign office has concerns on Manuel Mallia nomination as High Commissioner

Former Labour minister Manuel Mallia has not yet been issued with the letter of agrément from the British foreign office

Former minister Manuel Mallia (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)
Former minister Manuel Mallia (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)

Updated on 27 October 2021 at 7:49pm with British High Commission statement

The Maltese government has been told that the British foreign office has concerns about the nomination of former minister Manuel Mallia as British High Commissioner.

Although nominated in August, Mallia has not yet been issued with a letter of agrément, which precedes his presentation in London of the letters of credentials to Queen Elizabeth.

MaltaToday’s request for comment from the British foreign office last week was not answered; while the British High Commission to Malta said it did not comment on issues of agrément – the approval letter for an accredited diplomat.

While Mallia is not in London, foreign minister Evarist Bartolo’s former communications coordinator Daniel Attard has been appointed deputy high commissioner in London.

Mallia was announced as High Commissioner in August 2021, but so far his letter of agrément has not yet been issued. His predecessor, the career diplomat Joseph Cole took up his position on 1 August 2018, after serving four years in the Netherlands, and had his letter of agrément issued within three weeks; former High Commissioner Norman Hamilton had also been announced in August 2013, and his letter of agrément issued in August, commencing his term in September 2013.

A refusal of a Maltese nomination to the position of top diplomat by the receiving country would be a rare occasion.

Mallia is a former minister for home affairs and national security, but recently he threatened libel action against former book council head Mark Camilleri for accusing him of being involved in fuel smuggling and money laundering in his book A Rentseeker’s Paradise.

Manuel Mallia denied the claims by Camilleri, a Labour Party delegate who however fell out with the party after it was embroiled in widespread corruption allegations.

Camilleri claimed that Mallia not only abetted and aided the money laundering of proceeds from Libyan contraband fuel, but was also “invested” in ythe black market.

“Emmanuel Mallia owned a ship along with another oil smuggler called It-Turu dedicated to his father,” Camilleri wrote on Facebook.

“This ship used to go Libya and buy contraband diesel from Fahmi’s [Slim] mafia and in turn sell it to Malta’s main bunkerers [sic] Falzon and Falzon… the government knew that Mallia was involved in this illegal business, but they made him ambassador any way, hoping no one would ever discover his shady past and that things would be quickly forgotten.”

Mallia has denied the allegations as “an invention based on myths and false allegations against me”.

Camilleri claims in his book that Mallia met with oil smugglers when he minister at the behest of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, assuring them any activity outside the immediate Maltese economy would not be investigated.

Mallia sent Camilleri an email denying the claims in September. “You are therefore being requested to immediately retract those defamatory and injurious words and are formally being informed that you are being held responsible for all damages envisaged by law over this abusive and illegal behaviour against me,” the former minister told Camilleri.

The British High Commission replied following publication of the story, on 27 October: “The request for Dr Mallia’s appointment as Malta’s High Commissioner to the UK is being processed in the normal way.”