MFSA chief executive Joseph Cuschieri resigns: ‘no admission of misconduct’

Former MFSA chief executive Joseph Cuschieri resigns ahead of regulator investigation into Las Vegas trip but says it is not admission of wrongdoing

Former MFSA chief executive Joseph Cuschieri
Former MFSA chief executive Joseph Cuschieri

Malta Financial Services Authority chief executive officer Joseph Cuschieri has resigned, finance minister Clyde Caruana announced.

Caruana said he had accepted Cuschieri’s resignation and thanked him for his work at the regulator’s helm, “strengthening the regulatory aspect, modernizing the structures of the authority, and carrying out reforms in the MFSA in recent years.”

Cuschieri had self-suspended himself, together with MFSA general counsel Edwina Licari, after an internal investigation was launched on a Las Vegas trip with the magnate Yorgen Fenech.

Cuschieri and Licari had travelled to Las Vegas together with the Tumas magnate and casino owner Yorgen Fenech back in May 2018. The financial regulator’s legal counsel Edwina Licari was still legal counsel at the Malta Gaming Authority at the time of the trip in May 2018.

In his letter to the MFSA chairman, Cuschieri said he had taken his decision to step down “following a period of deep reflection – that in the circumstances it is both in the interest of the Authority and myself to part ways and avoid any unnecessary media attention and external pressures at such a critical juncture.”

Cuschieri said the resignation was not an easy decision for him, and that it had been his privilege to lead the MFSA through a radical transformation since 2018.

But he insisted that his resignation should “in no way be interpreted as an admission of any wrongdoing or misconduct on my part.”

Cuschieri said that as CEO he had carried out his duties to the best of his abilities and with integrity. “Major reforms were implemented in order to transform the MFSA into a more robust, dynamic and trustworthy financial supervisor,” Cuschieri said, thanking both the chairman and his management team and MFSA staff for their support.

Cuschieri had only just been appointed to the regular in May 2018 when he travelled with Fenech, Licari and Charlene Bianco Farrugia, a secretary from the Office of the Prime Minister, to Las Vegas. He was formerly chief executive of the MGA itself.

Times of Malta first reported that the MFSA CEO had travelled to Las Vegas with Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech in May 2018. The trip was paid for by Fenech. Cuschieri told the newspaper he had been invited by Fenech to advise on regulatory matters related to gaming, a sector he had just exited. Fenech is a casino owner. But while Cuschieri had only just stepped down from CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority, also accompanying them on the flight was the MGA’s legal counsel.

Cuschieri has insisted there was no conflict of interest or ethical breach given that he had already moved away from the MGA. Fenech’s ties to 17 Black and his link to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia were not yet known at the time.