Times of Malta

General, sporting, and business news for Malta and the surrounding region
  1. At least four people died Wednesday in an explosion at a fireworks factory in Sicily, firefighters said after the incident at the family-run firm. The late afternoon blast immediately killed two workmen and the 71-year-old wife of the owner of the Costa company in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, in Sicily's Messina region. The owner's son was one of four people hurt and was taken to hospital in the island's capital Palermo with serious injuries. One of the injured, whose name was not given, later succumbed to their injuries in hospital. Firefighters managed to extricate one employee who was inside the depot at the time of the explosion, but were still searching for one of his colleagues who was reported missing. The local prosecutor's office opened an enquiry into the disaster. Staff were preparing for New Year celebrations comprising traditional firework displays across the south of Italy designed to chase away evil spirits. Preparations for such displays, a tradition dating back to 1540, annually see a number of fatal incidents.                   
  2. Opposition leader Adrian Delia spoke on the need to reaffirm Malta's democratic European values in view of the developments of the past few days when he addressed the Congress of the European Popular Party on Wednesday. "We cannot have a government in our Europe that uses its electoral majority to run roughshod over the norms, standards and guarantees they were promised to us when we joined the European Union, he said when speaking in Zagreb. Despite the government, he said, the Maltese people were proud of their country. "The people are out on the streets because they want to live in a country where European standards and norms are respected and where the rule of country applies. Malta can be that country again," he said.  "Malta is not defined by the actions of the unscrupulous closest to the heart of power. That is not us. The Maltese are not corrupt, we are better than that. We are Christian Democrats, our people are proud Maltese, we are proud Europeans and we want you to see us such," he said.    
  3. Ken Block is back with the second installment of the acclaimed series’ spin-off Climbkhana, presented by Toyo Tires, Forza Motorsport and Omaze, released on Hoonigan’s YouTube channel. This time, Block and the Hoonigan Media Machine travelled to one of the world’s most dangerous roads, located deep in China’s interior, with his 914hp Ford F-150 Hoonitruck to film Climbkhana Two: Tianmen Mountain. “About five years ago, I found a photo on the internet of this crazy road made of multiple switchbacks that actually crossed over itself,” Block said. “Before I even discovered where in the world it was, I knew we had to go film there." Located in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, China, the Tianmen Mountain Highway climbs 10.7km across a ribbon of concrete that bends more than 99 times through lush foliage and precariously situated cliff drops. Considered so dangerous by the Chinese, the public is forbidden to drive on it.  Of all of Block’s vehicles, the Hoonitruck seemed the least suited for this incredibly narrow road, which at some points is skinnier than the highly modified, AWD truck is long. But its massive proportions, only make the feat even more impressive. “The juxtaposition of...
  4. Jose Mourinho promised “real passion” following his appointment as Tottenham Hotspur boss on Wednesday after Mauricio Pochettino was sacked by the struggling Premier League club. The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United manager was announced as the new boss at White Hart Lane hours after the Argentine was dismissed on Tuesday evening. “I couldn’t be happier and look forward to the challenge,” Mourinho told Tottenham’s official website.  “What can I promise? Passion, real passion. Passion for my job, but also passion for my club, that’s the way I have been all my career.” The 56-year-old, who had been out of work since leaving United last December, signed a contract until the end of the 2022-23 season after Spurs acted to halt their slide down the table. The club reached the Champions League final last season but are languishing in 14th spot in the Premier League after picking up just three wins from 12 games. They are 11 points off the top four positions which allow qualification to European club football’s top competition. “I want to try, obviously, everything to bring happiness to everyone who loves the club,” added the new manager, who has won domestic league...
  5. Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia were trapped in a car taking them out of Parliament on Wednesday as protesters shouted "Mafia, Mafia" and banged on their vehicle. A police inspector was injured when the car attempted to move off, appearing to run over her foot.  The car was eventually allowed to move off from the area in front of Parliament after former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil walked slowly in front of it, clearing the way. It was blocked again by protesters sitting in the street close to the Auberge de Castille but drove away after a few minutes [attach id=795571 type="video"]Minister Owen Bonnici's car is blocked by protesters in Valletta. Video: Ivan Martin and Christian Busuttil[/attach] Hundreds of anti-corruption protesters gathered outside parliament calling for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and calling ministers "clowns" after having earlier protested at Castille Square. They sang the national anthem and held placards, including one that claimed: "The corrupt killed Daphne Caruana Galizia".   They called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign in the wake of the arrest of 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech and his...
  6. A women’s championship match between Kirkop United and Mosta at the Dingli Ground on Tuesday was called off after 60 minutes after a player required hospital treatment following a heavy fall. Lara Theuma, who plays for Kirkop, was engaged in an aerial duel with an opponent before falling head first on the ground. She lost consciousness temporarily but received immediate treatment from the Malta FA physio on duty who called for ambulance assistance. The match was halted for several minutes with most of the players, particularly Theuma’s team-mates, showing signs of emotion and stunned by what had happened. The match official, Slobodan Petrovic, had intended to resume the encounter but with the ambulance reaching the Dingli Ground some 30 minutes later, the referee, in agreement with the two coaches, decided to call off the game.  Theuma was discharged from hospital after spending the night under observation.  Scans have shown that she had suffered a head and neck injury but no evidence of any spinal damage.  A statement from the club read: “We would like to wish a speedy recovery to our player Lara Theuma following a head injury during Tuesday’s match. Get well soon...
  7. A truck dumping waste inside the quarry that was ordered to shut down operations.

    Owners of a quarry in Gozo who had persisted in the illegal dumping of construction waste in defiance of an enforcement order has been taken to court, Environment Minister Jose Herrera confirmed. The case, which was flagged last month by Times of Malta, concerns a quarry in an area known as Tal-Misraħ in the limits of Kerċem. Despite having been slapped with a ‘Stop and Compliance’ order by the Environment Resources Authority on October 2, the illegal activity continued. Footage of trucks laden with construction waste entering the quarry and dumping their content with complete impunity was also uploaded. Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi raised the matter in parliament, asking Dr Herrera why such illegality had been allowed to persist. In his reply the environment minister noted that the enforcement order had been issued on three fronts – illegal dumping, entry of inert material to be used to crush the waste and the dumping and incineration of inert waste. Dr Herrera said other quarry operations were not affected by this enforcement action. He added that following investigations by ERA officials it transpired that illegal dumping of construction waste had persisted. Consequently,...
  8. Bank of Valletta failed for years to detect or address risks involving thousands of payments, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday, quoting a  European Central Bank report. It said BOV had not dealt with a litany of risk management failings despite repeated warnings from the Frankfurt-based regulator stretching back to 2015. The report — adopted by the ECB in the summer after an inspection late last year — called for remedial measures, including assessing if BOV’s top managers are fit for their jobs, and reducing exposure to risks posed by foreign clients by the end of this year. A senior ECB official acknowledged with Reuters, however, that BOV had shown “a change of attitude” with its new “de-risking” plan launched in May, but he warned that Frankfurt would consider restricting the bank’s services to foreign clients and gaming companies if it again failed to shape up. It could deploy such measures as part of its remit to protect financial stability.  Times of Malta reported last month that scores of gaming and other ‘high risk’ businesses are being cut loose by the bank following instructions by the ECB to de-risk. In its report, the ECB complained that when foreign...
  9. The MINI John Cooper Works GP distils the racing essence of the modern MINI. Inspired by the brand’s legendary motor racing achievements, this model – limited to just 3,000 units – embodies maximum performance and uncompromising dynamics. This can be seen instantly in the car’s design: a purist yet highly emotional exterior and interior visualise the GP genes more radically than ever before. The MINI John Cooper Works GP follows on from the likewise limited-edition John Cooper Works GP small series of 2013 and 2006. [attach id=795418 size="medium" align="left" type="image"][/attach] The flat front section with its wide track, large front apron, flared wheel arches and a rear wing visible even from the front instantly conveys uncompromising dynamic performance. Classic MINI icons such as the elliptical headlights and the hexagonal radiator grille ensure a clear-cut sense of identity and high recognition value. At the same time, characteristic John Cooper Works elements such as the hood scoop in the bonnet and the hexagonal honeycomb grille with GP logo in the radiator grille underscore the sporty perception of the front. The side view reveals the sportiest MINI silhouette to date.
  10. The MSE Equity Price Index shed 0.43% to a fresh 1-month low of 4,792.272 points on Wednesday, largely due to the sharp drop in IHI as well as declines in BOV and Malita. On the other hand, HSBC, MIA and GO trended higher whilst BMIT ended the day unchanged. Trading activity significantly slowed down today with only €62,707 worth of shares changing hands. International Hotel Investments plc slumped 5.3% back to the €0.805 level on just three deals totalling 5,246 shares. Similarly, Bank of Valletta plc eased by 0.9% to the €1.10 level on shallow volumes of 9,100 shares. The only other negative performing equity today was Malita Investments plc with a 1.1% drop back to the €0.90 level on a single trade of 20,000 shares. Meanwhile, HSBC Bank Malta plc rebounded by 1.6% to regain the €1.29 level on weak volumes of 3,000 shares. Last Monday, the bank announced that following its decision to roll-out a new strategic plan to increase its focus on digital banking services and to modernise its branch network, HSBC is expecting staffing levels to reduce by around 180 and, as a result, in the financial year ending 31 December 2019 the bank will incur a restructuring charge of...
  11. A woman who fell off an operating table ended up in the intensive therapy unit for treatment to her injuries, a court was told on Wednesday. The woman, 58, was admitted for minor surgery on Tuesday to remove a cyst on one of her fingers, but suffered neck and spinal injuries in the fall. Hours after the incident, the woman and her husband filed a judicial protest against the Director-General for Health Services, the Chief Operating Officer and Clinical Director at Mater Dei Hospital, holding them responsible for the accident caused through an error “clearly and unequivocally” admitted by the hospital staff.  Late on Tuesday, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced a magisterial inquiry into the incident. Joseph and Therese Zammit said in their protest that the surgery had ended shortly before 2pm and Ms Zammit was transferred from the operating theatre to a ward at the Burns Unit where Mr Zammit awaited her. Soon after, Mr Zammit drew nurses’ attention to the fact that his wife’s feet appeared to be numb, fearing that there may have been some complications as a result of the surgery. The staff duly carried out some further tests and subsequently called in their superiors. It was...
  12. Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri.

    Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has denied protecting top government officials linked to Yorgen Fenech. Speaking before entering Parliament after the businessman was arrested in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder investigation, Dr Muscat said: "Facts speak louder than words. There is no impunity in this country". Asked about his chief of staff Keith Schembri's future, Dr Muscat again said he never shied away from taking decisions. Asked if Mr Schembri would be at his office as usual tomorrow, Dr Muscat said he would let the current process take its course. Mr Schembri has publicly acknowledged having what he described as "draft business plans" with 17 Black, a Dubai company owned by Mr Fenech.  [attach id=795391 type="video"]Joseph Muscat speaking before entering Parliament on Wednesday evening. Video: Jonathan Borg[/attach] A leaked email identified 17 Black as one of the main sources of income for secret offshore structures set up by Mr Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. Amid pressure for is own resignation from activists and opposition politicians, Dr Muscat on Wednesday dismissed stepping down to prevent unduly influencing ongoing investigations. The Prime...
  13. The Opposition walked out of Parliament on Wednesday in protest over Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's refusal to sack chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. The walk-out took place shortly after the end of Question Time when Dr Muscat in a brief declaration said that in view of the morning's developments (the arrest of businessman Yorgen Fenech) he had wanted to update parliament but investigators had told him it was premature to divulge information at this stage. He said that in the coming days or weeks he would either deliver a statement or dedicate a full sitting for the latest development in investigations (into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia). PN deputy leader Robert Arrigo said this was unacceptable as the opposition had long been asking a series of questions, notably whether Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi would be sacked in view of their links to Mr Fenech.   Dr Muscat said he would reply to all questions at the appropriate time. He said the developments of the past few days showed that the institutions, which the PN repeatedly described as ineffective, worked well and did not look at faces. "When push comes to shove, the institutions work,"...
  14. ITALY Shona Zammit played 90 minutes as Pink Bari hosted Fiorentina in their latest Serie A encounter. The Viola emerged winners 3-0 - (click here for highlights).  Emma Lipman entered the fray in the final stages as her Florentia San Gimignano side clinched their third straight Serie A win after beating Roma 2-1.  Former Birkirkara player Ylenia Carabott was handed her Serie B debut after entering in the second half for Chievo Fortitudo Women in their 1-0 defeat against Ravenna.  NETHERLANDS Rachel Cuschieri entered the second half on the 76th minute as Eredivisie leaders PSV Vrouwen were held to a 1-1 draw by Heerenveen. 
  15. The US ambassador to the European Union told an impeachment hearing Wednesday that he was following the orders of President Donald Trump in seeking a "quid pro quo" from Ukraine. Gordon Sondland -- whose appearance before Congress is being watched especially closely as he was a Trump ally -- said he believed the president was pressing Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden. "We followed the president's orders," Sondland said in his prepared testimony to an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. He said that Trump forced US diplomats to work with his personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. "We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt," he said. Sondland said that Trump held off on offering a summit with Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as Giuliani demanded that Kiev publicly announce that it was investigating a gas company on which former vice president Biden's son Hunter held a paid board position.  Giuliani also wanted Zelensky to investigate a widely discredited conspiracy theory in which Ukraine planted evidence on a server of Biden's Democratic Party to show that Russia...
  16. An elderly Cospicua man was attacked as he slept in his house and robbed of his gold, a court was told on Wednesday. The assault was allegedly committed by a 29-year-old plasterer, Sean Grech, who gained entry by shining up a drainage pipe. Grech was taken to court on Wednesday where he pleaded not guilty to the assault and theft. He also denied breaching the terms of a probation order handed down in August, and relapsing.   Prosecuting Inspector Fabian Fleri explained that the break-in took place in the early morning of October 8 when the 71-year old pensioner was rudely woken up by the intruder who barged into his bedroom and attacked him. He then fled the scene, taking away with him the victim’s gold. The elderly man suffered a fractured nose in the alleged attack. Investigators zoomed in on the suspect after DNA tests on items lifted from the scene of the crime. Defence lawyer Leontine Calleja made no request for bail. “Society needs protection and it is up to the courts to provide that protection,” observed Magistrate Joseph Mifsud, adding a word of praise for the police “who worked efficiently.” “Everyone has a grandma, a granddad, a mother and a mother. Would you wish...
  17. A 69-year-old man was hospitalised on Wednesday after falling a height of one storey at his home. The police said the accident happened at 11.30am when the man was working at his home in Triq L-Istefanotis, Santa Luċija. A medical team administered first aid before taking the man to Mater Dei Hospital.  
  18. Franco Fenech, left, was handed control of the Tumas Group, by his brother, Yorgen Fenech (right)

    Updated 3.50pm with Siemens statement that it confronted Yorgen Fenech Businessman Yorgen Fenech has resigned his position at the helm of the Tumas Group according to documents filed on Tuesday, a day before his arrest. He has also stepped down as director of Electrogas, the company which runs the new Delimara power station.  Company documents uploaded onto the Malta Business Registry on Wednesday morning show that Mr Fenech stepped down as director of Tumas Group Company Limited, which holds the Fenech family business empire.  His brother, Franco, better known for his career as a boxer, has replaced him, effective from last Tuesday, November 12. The document is signed by Tumas Group chairman Raymond Fenech.  Mr Fenech also stepped down from Tumas Gaming Ltd, where he has been succeeded by Emanuel Fenech, and from Tumas Investments Ltd.  The tycoon was apprehended by the Armed Forces trying to flee the island on his luxury yacht in the early hours of Wednesday morning.   [attach id=795373 size="large" align="left" type="image"]The document filed by Tumas Group shows Yorgen Fenech resigned as Director, replaced by his brother Franco[/attach] The businessman is a "person of...
  19. Social Accommodation Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes, left, and Housing Authority CEO Leonid McKay at yesterday’s press conference. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

    The Housing Authority would be the sole regulator of the rent law when new regulations came into force in January, the government announced yesterday. Addressing a press conference, the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Accommodation, Roderick Galdes said the authority was being given more responsibilities in order to properly regulate the rental market under the new law that was approved by Parliament last week. A new section within the authority, the Private Residential Leases Unit, has also been set up to handle registrations from landlords, which will have to be submitted online through a newly-set up website. Mr Galdes said the unit would be tasked with enforcing certain “small issues” to avoid having to resolve them in court. It would also be given the power to enforce regulations as stipulated under the new law and gather data to help the government understand the rental market better. Following the reform’s ap-proval in Parliament last week, the Malta Developers’ Association (MDA) said the changes would result in the cutting down of freedom of contract between landlords and tenants of residential properties. It also warned that it could lead to a lose-lose outcome for...
  20. A 16-year-old, who admitted to lying under oath in rape proceedings against her former boyfriend, has been conditionally discharged. The teenager was suffering from sleepless nights triggered by a guilty conscience, prosecuting inspector Oriana Spiteri told the Court on Wednesday.The inspector added that the 16-year-old student had told her social carer that she wanted to speak to the police. The girl confessed that she had not been truthful when testifying under oath in a hearing before former magistrate Aaron Bugeja during proceedings in which her then-boyfriend was charged with the rape of a relative of the girl. She said that she had lied in order to help her boyfriend, the prosecuting officer explained. “Boyfriends come and go. Family does not. Don’t step into the flames on account of someone else. Go and tell the truth,” Magistrate Joseph Mifsud, presiding over the arraignment, warned her. Defence lawyer Leontine Calleja explained that the girl had come forward out of her own will and was still in time to undo the wrong she had committed. After taking note of these submissions and in view of the girl’s age and early guilty plea, the Court declared her guilty but...
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