MFSA’s acting CEO to remain ‘for the time being’ – Finance Minister

Christopher P. Buttigieg

Last Updated on Wednesday, 9 December, 2020 at 9:41 am by Andre Camilleri

Christopher Buttigieg will, for the time, remain as acting head of the financial services watchdog, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has told The Malta Independent.

Buttigieg was appointed interim CEO after the resignation of Joe Cuschieri, who resigned from the MFSA in the wake of the Las Vegas trip controversy.

It was revealed last month that Cuschieri had travelled to the US with Yorgen Fenech in 2018, to provide advice on “regulatory matters.”

Fenech, back then a director of Tumas Group, which owns a casino company, was reportedly interested in investing in the United States. Cuschieri told The Malta Independent that he had not been paid by Fenech but would not go into detail about the kind of advice he provided.

Another person who attended the trip was Edwina Licari, then an MGA official who has since joined the MFSA as its general counsel. Licari has since resigned as a member of the board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAO), but has retained her role at the MFSA.

Isabel Farrugia Bianco, who had previously worked as personal assistant to disgraced OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, was the fourth person on the trip. No details have been provided as to why she travelled with the group.

After the revelations, Cuschieri and Licari suspended themselves from the MFSA, and the authority appointed an independent panel to look into the case.

Cuschieri resigned on the same day that the board presented its findings. He insisted that his decision to step down was “no admission of guilt.”

It was hinted, however, that the board had recommended his dismissal. In a statement, the MFSA had said that it had ratified Cuschieri’s resignation after taking note of the board of review’s opinion on the case. 

In the case of Edwina Licari, however, the board’s conclusions did “not warrant her continued self-suspension.” 

The report has not been made public.

The Malta Independent asked Minister Caruana whether the next CEO of the MFSA would be politically appointed or whether there would be a public call. We also asked when the new CEO will be appointed.

Caruana said that, “for the time being, the functions of the CEO will continue to be undertaken by the acting CEO Dr Christopher Buttigieg.”

Buttigieg was appointed acting CEO by a unanimous board decision on 30 October. He has worked at the MFSA since 2000, having served in a number of positions, including Chief Officer Supervision and. Chief Officer Strategy, Policy and Innovation.

Sources said the government was still taking stock of the situation and considering some changes at the authority before deciding on a permanent CEO.

It is also understood that the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer could coincide with the appointment of a new Board of Governors. The current board was appointed in 2015, and its five-year term expires this month.

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