Malta continues to do everything it can to ensure it can enjoy a positive reputation from the global community. Always big on gaming, it has been implementing measures to ensure that there aren’t any scandals that could rock the boat as it becomes a powerhouse in the industry, and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is determined to weed out all components that could cause problems. Former CEO Heathcliff Farrugia left in a hurry at the end of last month and the gaming regulator has been driving home its plans to prevent match-fixing. In another move that is indicative of Malta’s desire to maintain a cleaner profile, the head of the Malta Financial Service Authority (MFSA), Joseph Cuschieri, has now given up his position, as well.
Cuschieri’s resignation won’t come as a surprise to most. He is the former chairman and CEO of the MGA and was found to have some type of link to a supposed criminal, Jorgen Fenech, who is said to have been behind the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana. Fenech was a casino operator who, along with several other high-profile Maltese figures, was concerned about an exposé being developed by Caruana that was reportedly going to blow the lid on corruption and bribery at the highest levels of government and business in the country.
After moving from the MGA to the MFSA, Cuschieri, at one point, felt it was okay to travel with Fenech to Las Vegas on a trip that was paid for by the casino mogul. In light of the ongoing murder scandal and talk of conflicts of interest, the man charged with leading Malta’s financial regulations had already stepped away from his responsibilities earlier this year, but had not officially resigned until now.
In a letter he wrote two days ago announcing his resignation, Cuschieri asserted that he still didn’t feel that he had done anything wrong, but that extricating himself completely from Malta’s political and financial activity was the best course of action. He explained that he wanted to “avoid any unnecessary media attention and external pressures at such a critical juncture” and added that his resignation “should in no way be interpreted as an admission of any wrongdoing and/or misconduct.” That sounds oddly similar to what Steve Wynn said when he “voluntarily” decided to resign as CEO of Wynn Resorts following his sexual misconduct scandal. Cuschieri further offered, “I came to this conclusion following a period of deep reflection – that in the circumstances it is both in the interest of the Authority and myself to part ways.”
When Cuschieri gave up control of the MFSA, Dr. Christopher Buttigieg stepped in as interim CEO. For now, he will continue to hold that position until Malta can find a suitable, permanent replacement.