Iran said that Israel and an exiled opposition group used new and "complex" methods to assassinate its leading nuclear scientist, as it buried him Monday in a funeral befitting a top "martyr". As it laid Mohsen Fakhrizadeh -- seen by Israel as the "father" of Iran's nuclear weapons programme -- to rest, the Islamic republic also vowed to redouble his work. Fakhrizadeh died Friday after his car and bodyguards were targeted in a bomb and gun attack on a major road outside the capital, heightening tensions once more between Tehran and its foes. Iran's top security official, Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani of the Supreme National Security Council, said the "operation was very complex, using electronic equipment and no one was present at the scene". The People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) were "certainly" involved, along with "the Zionist regime and the Mossad", he said in video interviews, referring to the Israeli government and its spy agency. With few details emerging of the attack itself, the scientist's son said his mother was also in the targeted car but survived the attack. Without citing sources, Fars news agency said the attack had been carried out with the help of "a...
In an Environment and Development Planning Committee meeting on Monday, changes which will see the addition of residential housing to the Hal Ferh zone were approved.
During the parliamentary committee session, guest speaker Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia gave a small speech in favour of the amendments which will pertain to the Hal Ferh zoning permit.
Farrugia continued to explain that the parameters of the original agreement are still in effect. These include the sustainable regeneration of the area without affecting the surrounding zones, holistic design and most importantly that the majority of the land area will be used for tourist purposes.
Farrugia also reminded the committee and the attendees that the land of Hal Ferh is not virgin land as it has already been built up for tourist purposes in the past. Farrugia then went back to the contract where it states that the footprint of the built area is not going to increase. The area of the proposed residential area will be of around 9,000 square metres and the parameters such as the building height, area and density must remain the same, Farrugia said.
Present at the committee meeting were NGO Movement Graffitti, who raised concern that the proposed area which will be used for permanent residential housing will be taking away land which is a rare commodity in Malta. They also added that the land used for the residential area is decreasing the area which is to be used for touristic purposes, which in turn means fewer jobs. Farrugia responded by reassuring them that the terms of the original agreement are not going to be changed and neither will the use of the land.
PN MPs David Thake and Kevin Cutajar, raised concern on why the company owners in charge of the regeneration of Hal Ferh could not complete the task without the proposed residential area. They continued to argue that if this is not possible, other contenders must be considered.
International Hotel Investments CEO Simon Naudi responded to these claims by stating that the area of Hal Ferh is not virgin land and not a single metre will be taken as part of this regeneration project. Naudi also reassured people that the parameters are there and they will follow every single one of them.
The approved proposals are part of a public consultation which is ongoing until 15 December.
The pandemic and the release of the engrossing Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit have had an impact on online chess and the popularity of the intellectual sport elsewhere. But Malta appears to be not necessarily following suit, at least where it comes to club membership. Chess may have earned similar status to baking bread during lockdowns and the board game is now the protagonist of the hit drama, deemed responsible for a renewed interest in the game worldwide. But these phenomena cannot be translated into any significant effect on club membership, or more frequent playing, locally, according to the Malta Chess Federation. While welcoming the series for casting the spotlight onto the sport, federation president, Geoffrey Borg, pins the bucking of the trend also onto COVID-19’s social-distancing measures. The centuries-old game is among the few to witness a dramatic increase in online games played since the series was released in October. [attach id=955379 size="medium" align="right" type="image"][/attach] Overseas, online chess lessons have also experienced a record interest during the pandemic. Google searches for the term ‘chess’ are said to have doubled over last year and...
International youth prospect network Eurospects announced their new rankings for various age categories on Thursday and Pallacanestro Orzinuovi’s Kurt Cassar has made it into the European Top 100. The Times of Malta’s Sportsdesk looks at Cassar and other Maltese professionals plying their trade overseas in another segment of ‘Maltese abroad’. Continue reading this article on Sports Desk, the new sports website by Times of Malta
France’s Stephanie Frappart will become the first woman to referee a men’s Champions League match on Wednesday when Juventus host Dinamo Kiev in Turin, European football’s governing body UEFA confirmed. The 36-year-old has already made history as the first woman to referee in the French top flight, and took charge of the 2019 UEFA Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea. She also made her Europa League debut in October. It is the first time that a woman has been assigned to referee a game in Europe’s most prestigious club competition. Italian giants Juventus host Ukrainian side Dinamo in Group G at the Allianz Stadium. Juventus, second in the group, are already through to the last 16 along with leaders Barcelona, with two games to play.
A recent government proposal to revise 42 legal clauses related to gender, identity and the public registry has raised questions about what this all means. Times of Malta took a few questions and comments from readers to explain the changes which are expected to be tabled in parliament for a second reading later this week. One of the amendments states that when parents bear a child and they register their child’s birth, they can now choose to leave the gender field blank. Is this mandatory? No, it is not. The amendment concerning children’s gender states that parents can leave the field blank so the child can assign their own gender when they come of age. The amendment does not mean that parents are not allowed to assign their child’s gender, it only opens the option for the field to be left blank. If a child is assigned a gender at birth that they later choose to change when they become an adult, that same person will be able to go to the public registry to change their gender as they see fit. But men and women are born different, parts of their body define who they are. Why is it an option to leave out someone’s gender? Recent research on what makes one ‘male’ or ‘female’...
Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee has approved changes to the 2006 North West Local Plan Policy and the 2008 Ħal Ferħ Development Brief to allow residences to be built at the Ħal Ferħ complex in Golden Bay. The site could, to date, only be used for tourism purposes. Labour MP’s Joe Mizzi, Anton Refalo and Jean Claude Micallef voted in favour of the changes while PN MP’s David Thake and Kevin Cutajar voted against. The application was made by the Corinthia Group, which plans to build some 25 villas taking up a third of the area. Most of the site will still be used for tourism, the Planning Authority explained in a brief to the MPs. The mix will generate business in the form of high-quality tourism and create more jobs. The development will still bound by other conditions set in the transfer of the site - namely that most of the floor space has to be used for tourism accommodation, that the total density cannot increase and that design parameters for the residential complex must remain holistic. The project, the PA said, will not take up any additional land or rise higher than previous developments on site. The environmental impact on the site will...
Due to the pandemic, various industries have been put into hiatus. As a result, so many businesses have closed down permanently while some are struggling to stay afloat. However, the situation will change, and things will certainly get better. After the pandemic, especially in 2021, there are some industries that are highly likely to flourish – here are some of them. 1. Online gaming Making money online is a real thing, and it is no surprise that many gaming companies made a fortune from online gamers considering that there are so many places available to play games online. Gamers on platforms like Twitch have also seen a significant increase in their viewers with battle blockbusters like Fortnite and Esports being as popular as ever. Since the world has been digitalised even more this year, the e-gaming and gambling industry is likely going to flourish in 2021. You can discover a new list of providers at CasinoViking UK that are already in place to welcome new customers with lucrative welcome offers and other promotions. 2. Analytics and big data Data and analytics are buzzwords for a good reason. Across all sectors, the big data industry is already doing great. Today, at least...
The court has found testimony delivered by Transport Minister Ian Borg in a libel case instituted by a third party against The Malta Independent to be ‘hard to believe’.
The case dealt with the sale of a piece of land in Dingli back in 2014, by a man with mental health issues to then Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg.
Mark Farrugia had filed a libel case against Rachel Attard, Stephen Calleja and David Lindsay on behalf of The Malta Independent on Sunday over an article titled ‘Family incensed as PS buys land from mentally-ill father’ that was published in 2015. Farrugia was one of the middlemen in the sale.
The article dealt with the family of Dingli resident Anthony Scicluna who were considering taking legal action in a bid to reverse the sale of a property to then Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg.
The land in question is in Rabat's picturesque Santa Katerina valley, close to another property Borg also purchased. The 655 square metre property, roughly the size of a football pitch's penalty area and which the Scicluna’s family say has been owned and tilled by them for generations, was sold for the measly sum of €10,000 and without the family's knowledge. The family had insisted that Borg knew of the Scicluna’s mental condition toward the end of 2013 when middlemen, one of whom was the Scicluna’s own nephew (Farrugia), began approaching him on Borg's behalf to purchase the land.
Family members who at the time had spoken with this newspaper claimed that on 10 January 2014, a Friday, Scicluna left his family home and did not return until the early hours of Monday morning. Scicluna reportedly spent that weekend in the company of Franco Sammut and Mark Farrugia, the two middlemen they say (and according to the sale contact, were acting on Borg's behalf) took him from bar to bar in Dingli and Rabat plying him with alcohol, which Scicluna cannot drink because of his medication, in an all-out bid to convince him to sell the land. The article read that Scicluna later that weekend informed the family that he sold the land. It was also reported that in the early hours of the morning of 13 January, a Monday, that Scicluna returned home, took a shower and changed his clothes. He was then reportedly picked up by the two middlemen at 7am and was escorted to Notary Anton Borg for an early morning meeting. It was over this content that Farrugia filed a libel suit.
During the court case, Scicluna’s children said that their father suffered from mental conditions for 25 years, and one of them also mentioned that her father suffered from alcohol and gambling addiction. Scicluna’s wife also said that her husband suffers from mental illness and had even spent time at Mt Carmel Hospital.
A psychiatrist also testified and said that Scicluna was under her care for 12 years, saying that he suffers from schizoaffective disorder.
Farrugia was asked whether he knew his uncle had mental problems, answered that he did not know. He denied ever knowing that his uncle had recovered at a mental health hospital and said he could not know as the respective families did not talk to each other. He also denied knowing that his uncle had an alcohol problem, despite one of Scicluna’s children saying otherwise.
Minister Ian Borg had said that he had long known Anthony Scicluna for around 18 years. He said that he knew Scicluna had family problems in the past with his wife and some of his children and that Scicluna has signed at least 6 other contracts in past years without anybody doubting his capacity.
While the court found that it was not proven that Farrugia had taken Scicluna out drinking nor that Sammut and Farrugia had picked him up on the Monday morning, it could not just consider these two declarations on their own without weighing them in the context of the whole article.
The court noted that the gist of the article was the act by Ian Borg and not what the middlemen did. The court also found that the protagonist of the story was Ian Borg and not Farrugia.
The court said that it has no doubt that the testimony of Scicluna’s family and the psychiatrist was right, that the individual had for a long time suffered from serious mental health problems that, even in the best of moments, did not allow him to take wise decisions and made him vulnerable to being influenced by others.
The court did not find Ian Borg’s statement, and that of Farrugia, that they did not know about the state of Scicluna’s mental health, credible.
The court said that while Farrugia said that their families did not talk between them, it found it very doubtful and unbelievable that in a small town like Dingli the people did not know that one of their own had mental health problems so large that required him to spend time in recovery at Mater Dei Hospital. “This applies even more to family and even more so when they live in the same locality.”
It is pertinent to note that Ian Borg contests on the district that includes Dingli and was also Mayor of the locality for a time.
“The court also finds it very difficult to believe that Ian Borg, who admitted to knowing Scicluna for around 18 years and knew of his problems with his family, could not then know of the state of his mental health.”
The court said that, tied to this, is the fact that after weeks if not months of attempts to convince Scicluna to sell the property to Borg, in a single day “essentially the day when for some reason or other Scicluna finally decided to sell the land – Farrugia, Borg, Sammut and the notary managed to finalise the contract in less than 24 hours.
“Even if the courts on the best assumptions, cioe that there was nothing worked out between Borg and the middlemen to put unjust pressure on Scicluna to sell the land voluntarily, the fact remains that Farrugia and Borg knew (as the court already said it does not believe that they did not know) that they had a vulnerable individual before them who suddenly decided to sell his land for a price which the court did not find was market value.
The court found that the subject of the article in question merits public scrutiny and was in the public interest.
The court said that the comments and the declarations made in the article, although two of them (with regards to Farrugia) were incorrect, were substantially the truth in the context of the whole article. The court also found that the article was honest opinion and cannot say that its publication was bad or that it intended to damage anyone.
The court decided that the article consisted of fair comment regarding an issue of public interest.
The Malta Independent was represented by lawyer Peter Fenech.
By end September 2020, being the final deadline set by the National Audit Office (NAO) to analyse the financial statements of local authorities, the audited accounts of seven local councils - namely Birgu, Birkirkara, Gżira, Qrendi, San Pawl il-Baħar, Swieqi and Xgħajra - were not submitted, the NAO has said.
"These should have been received by 12 June 2020. This year the official deadline was extended by four weeks due to the exceptional challenges faced by the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. Indeed, 52 local councils, the five regional councils and the Local Councils Association managed to deliver by the deadline."
Auditor General Charles Deguara on Monday presented to Speaker Anġlu Farrugia the annual report on the workings of local government for the year 2019.
This office once again commends the continuous commitment made by the main stakeholders in devising collaborative approaches through which local authorities, together with the administrative body, collectively address local issues. "Yet, the fact that certain shortcomings have been repeatedly reported in recent years, indicates that there needs to be improvement in specific areas."
Prevailing issues related to inadequate management of fixed assets, non-adherence to statutory reporting procedures, procurement not in line with standing regulations, and accounting records that were not always duly updated.
Other concerns included:
- lack of substantiating documentation; consequently, the respective Local Government Auditor could not express an opinion on the financial statements as presented by Kalkara and Valletta Local Councils;
- the audit reports of another 45 local authorities were qualified with an 'Except For' audit opinion, meaning that certain areas could not be audited due to insufficient evidence;
- 11 local councils recorded a negative working capital, indicating that they will not be able to meet their financial obligations as they fall due; and
- 10 local authorities had not yet submitted their response to the management letter by end September 2020.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) has announced an educational initiative aimed to liven up classrooms with Christmas spirit. The initiative was spurred by the fact that, this year, schools are forfeiting most of their usual Christmas activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Għanjiet tal-Milied was developed to address these necessary changes to the usual scholastic tradition. This innovative project, which MPO says is rooted in its mission to promote culture and arts, is intended for all children attending primary schools around the Maltese islands, giving teachers and students access to several Christmas carols in the Maltese language. Under the artistic direction of Daniel Cauchi, the traditional carols are being recreated and recorded by the MPO with lyrics penned by renowned Maltese authors, with the intention of bringing children closer to both classical music and our native language. The MPO further claimed that the project aims to instigate children’s creativity by encouraging teachers and schools to create small projects with these carols, through a readily available online kit. This includes the recorded tracks (in sing-along and full versions) as well as several...
An option being given to parents not to indicate the gender of their newborn on the birth certificate should be restricted only to rare cases where the gender could not be medically identified, the Opposition argued in Parliament on Monday. Shadow Minister Karol Aquilina said that while the PN MPs would vote in favour of amendments to the Civil Code, centred mostly on the choice of surnames for couples, he hoped an agreement could be reached on the clause related to the option not to indicate gender on the birth certificate. Independent MP Godfrey Farrugia was stronger in his criticism, and said he would be voting against this bill. In his decades of experience as a doctor he had only had one case where the gender was unclear, he said. But a simple mouth swab test established whether a baby was XX or XY, a boy or a girl. This clause was creating hullabaloo for nothing, giving a right which did not exist. This was not a matter of a right, but a shameful act which could not recognise matters as they were, nature as it was, he said. The Bill was introduced by parliamentary secretaries Alex Muscat and Rosianne Cutajar. Muscat in his introduction explained the amendments, announced...
US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday formally tapped ex-Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to lead the Treasury, as he named officials to try to revitalize the world's largest economy. The United States is struggling with a massive Covid-19 outbreak that's caused tens of millions of layoffs while sharply slowing annualized growth, and with cases surging again and Congress deadlocked over more aid. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen, 74, will be the first female Treasury head in its history, and likely be tasked with breaking the deadlock over aid in Washington, should lawmakers not come to an agreement before Biden's January inauguration. "We face great challenges as a country right now. To recover, we must restore the American dream -- a society where each person can rise to their potential and dream even bigger for their children," Yellen tweeted. "As Treasury Secretary, I will work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all." Other officials announced on Monday include veterans of former president Barack Obama's administration, several of which the Biden transition team noted would break racial barriers in their positions. "As we get to work to control the virus, this...
DB Chairman says he used to discuss ongoing projects with Keith Schembri, says they were not friends
Silvio Debono, the Chairman of the DB Group, said that he used to speak with Keith Schembri (the former OPM Chief of Staff) about ongoing projects, but said that the two were never friends.
Debono testified in court on Monday during the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Debono said that while he would speak to Schembri about projects, this was not done in the capacity as a friend.
Asked about his relationship with former Minister Konrad Mizzi, Debono said he never spoke to him, neither before the ITS project tender nor after.
On the ITS tender, Debono told the board that he was frustrated that the DB group was meant to spend €17 million on the tender, however ended up paying more than that. He claimed that the tender’s price was fair.
Debono also told the board that he had employed Daphne Caruana Galizia back in 2002 for a month or two as a consultant.
Regarding a number of libel cases presented against Caruana Galizia back in 2017, he said he wanted to wash his hands of the allegations that had been made. The cases had been filed after the slain journalist had written about the DB Group regarding the sale if the ITS site. He said that he was definitely opening libel cases when she called him corrupt.
The MSE Equity Price Index opened the week notably higher as it climbed 1.36% to a three-month high of 3,708.519 points. The upsurge was mainly driven by the strong gains in IHI, MIA and BOV as the three companies saw their combined market value increase by over €50 million. Meanwhile, only MPC trended lower whilst a further three companies closed the day unchanged as trading activity improved further to €0.2 million. International Hotel Investments plc rallied almost 10% to a seven-month high of €0.625 across 80,480 shares. Also among the large companies by market cap, Malta International Airport plc added a further 1.7% to a near six-month high of €5.85 on a total of 9,761 shares. Bank of Valletta plc recaptured the €0.94 level (+1.1%) across 36,362 shares. PG plc added 0.5% to regain the €1.90 level on eight deals totalling 20,400 shares. The company’s Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on 14 December to consider and, if deemed fit, approve the interim financial statements for the six-month period ended 31 October 2020. Meanwhile, shareholders as at close of trading tomorrow will be receiving a net dividend of €0.0185185 per share. Medserv plc and MaltaPost plc also...
Chile is one of the most remarkable Latin American markets. The country occupies the better part of the west coast of South America and with a population of 18.73 million, the market for interactive gaming products is as vibrant as it gets. Still, the country has not been very keen on introducing online casinos in a legal capacity – that is until 2020 when Chile had to deal with the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis. While the country has suffered, a minor silver lining given the severity of the pandemic was the introduction of a framework that allows Chile's casinos to scale their operations online and secure additional revenue for the State's coffers. How are casinos regulated in Chile? Regulating online casinos in Chile is very new. In fact, Chilean media reported in June, 2020 that the Congress has made a proposal to allow for the automatic renewal of the operating permits of 14 casino brands, thus avoiding suspending them indefinitely. All 14 properties were supposed to expire in 2020, but the Chilean government has decided to counteract this with an ad-hoc measure that renewed the licences for another 12 months before a more thorough review of licence holders...
During a press conference on Monday, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa, Minister for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement Byron Camilleri and the Prime Minister’s wife Lydia Abela, officially launched a specialised domestic violence unit which has been set up within the ranks of the Police Force.
Gafa, began by explaining the mission statement of the Malta Police Force. “The main aim for the police in the community is to offer a trusted and professional service in order to keep people’s safety in mind. This has to be done together with the community,” Gafa said.
Gafa went on to explain how in the past, this mission statement was applied to different specialised sectors within the Malta Police Force, such as financial crime, cyber-crime and so on. This mission statement must also be applied to the combatting of gender-based and domestic violence cases, he said.
Upon his appointment as police commissioner, Gafa said he has constantly worked for reform on how to improve the handling domestic violence cases. 100 days after, on the 1st of October this vision came to light and over the past couple of months, this scheme has helped lots of people who fell victims to domestic violence, Gafa explained.
In the past, whenever a domestic violence case was reported, the specific police station would investigate the case. Gafa went on to explain that these cases require certain expertise and one could not expect every police officer to specialise in all the different fields. Therefore these cases are now being transferred to this new unit for a more specialised approach.
Camilleri and Gafa both presented figures which indicate that this new unit is already bearing fruit. During the first month, starting from the first of October, an increase in reported cases was noted, Gafa explained. Camilleri went on to say that since its start, around 250 domestic violence cases have been worked on and from these cases more than 300 victims have been helped. Camilleri also said that from these 300 victims, 90 of them were males.
Abela stressed the importance of promoting these services. Speaking from a lawyer’s perspective, Abela said that on a daily basis she is faced with people who are victims of domestic abuse, therefore a specialised service like this will only help in raising awareness to help people to come out of the vicious cycle.
In a comment given to this newsroom, Camilleri said that in the past, whoever went to a police station to report a domestic violence crime would have to hope that the police officer in front of them would understand and be able to help him or her. This is not a shortcoming of the police officer as they would not be specialists in this field. Therefore with the creation of this unit, specialised support could be provided. This does not mean that the role of the police station is removed when reporting a domestic crime, but rather the police station can offer transport and safety to the victim while transferring their case to the gender-based and domestic crimes unit.
Nadia Theuma, Paragon Europe, Carl James Debono, University of Malta, Bruno Ando and Salvatore Castorina, University of Catania Elderly persons are increasingly resorting to the use of technology to support them in their day to day activities. Be it smart phones to talk to their families or the use of skype to connect with relatives or friends overseas, the average elderly person is more conversant today with the use of technology. Besides communication, technology is essential in supporting an elderly person with retaining their own independent life as well enjoying healthy ageing. This theme was the main focus of the NATIFLife project which was supported by the INTERREG Italia-Malta Programme. The project, led by the University of Catania has Paragon Europe (Malta), the University of Malta, VITECO, Salupo, and CTA HELIOS, with the latter three organisations hailing from Sicily, as project partners. The project was instrumental as it created innovative technologies to promote healthy and independent living. For more information on the NATIFLife project visit the project website at www.natiflife-project.eu. As part of this project, the University of Catania and Paragon Europe...
Carmel Aqulina, the theatre director, drama teacher and author, has died at the age of 74. In a statement announcing his death on Sunday, Teatro Manoel paid tribute to his contribution to theatre and his encouragement to the acting community. Born in 1946 in Għargħur, Aquilina’s life work revolved around the arts. In 1975 he founded the Good Friday pageant at Għargħur and in 1979 he was appointed member of the drama unit of the education department and tutor-director at the Manoel Theatre Academy of the Dramatic Art. Aquilina directed several plays, including Menz by Francis Ebejer (1991), Richard III by Shakespeare (1993) and Is-Surmast by Trevor Zahra (1994). He was also best known for his theatrical works including ‘Irgiel tat-Tiben’ and ‘Il-Gnien u l-Arka’. On Monday, numerous theatre groups and personalities recalled a talented artist and an inspiring teacher. Teatru Malta Creative Director Sean Buhagiar said that 2020 had been a tough year for local theatre. “Carmel taught me a lot. He recommended the first scripts which I directed back in 2006. I am forever indebted to him,” he said. Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech shared a picture of himself with both Carmel...
French driver Romain Grosjean will sit out next weekend’s Formula One race after escaping a fiery high-speed crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix with just burns to his hands, his team Haas said on Monday. Grosjean walked away from the wreckage after he collided with Daniil Kyvat’s Alpha Tauri on the first lap of Sunday’s race, causing the Haas car to split in half and burst into flames as it smashed through the safety barriers at 225kph. Continue reading this article on Sports Desk, the new sports website by Times of Malta