No proof ministry officials helped alleged fuel smuggler, internal investigation finds

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An internal investigation has cleared Foreign Ministry officials of helping alleged fuel smugglers falsify documents.

The investigation was launched last November, following an article published in Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, which alleged that Darren Debono had obtained legalised certificates for smuggled diesel through an unnamed 55-year-old woman working at the ministry. The documents were initialed ‘K.M.’.

The article had claimed that investigators in Catania had homed in on Mr Debono’s ministry contact, having wiretapped a phone call in which he allegedly made reference to the ministry official.

Mr Debono was one of several people arrested by Italian police in October in connection with a suspected €30 million fuel smuggling ring.

Ministry officials cleared

The investigation found that ‘K.M.’ followed the rules throughout and that there was no evidence of any ministry official having had any contact with Mr Debono.

The legalisation process, the investigation board said, “involves nothing more than authenticating the signature which appears on presented documents”.

READ: Ministry launches investigation following Italian newspaper claims

It said that there was no 55-year-old woman tasked with legalisation duties at the ministry, and that the person currently responsible for such duties had never discussed document certification with anyone other than her superiors.

Somewhat confusingly, the investigation concluded that the systems used by the ministry included the required security and audit trails, before going on to note that the procedures were “outdated” and that they should be revised “as soon as possible”.

It called for a working group to be set up to revise procedures and ensure they tallied with requirements stipulated in international law, to ensure there was no room for abuse and that “the ministry’s reputation and administration is safeguarded”.

The three-person investigation board was chaired by Joseph Camilleri, with Nancy Caruana and Joseph Caruana as members.

The internal investigation’s findings were tabled in parliament by Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela on Wednesday, following a request by Opposition MP Carmelo Abela.

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