The Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) is keeping mum about an ongoing scandal in the transport regulator in which maritime officials are allegedly extracting bribes from boat owners in return for the cancellation of their fines, saying that it “does not get involved in such local issues as the boat licences.”

Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, a representative of Malta’s leading maritime lobby, made up of most of the country’s private stakeholders in the sector, said the organisation’s “focus is more on maritime strategy.”

The MMF was asked for a comment about the alleged bribes-not-fines racket, specifically about the potential for abuse whereby fines are issued for no valid reason – a form of extortion, since maritime operators would then face the decision of either wasting precious time to contest the fine or just pay an official a reported €150 to make the fine disappear.

Such extortionist practices are commonplace in regions and sectors where the bribery of officials is a regular occurrence.

The racket, as reported so far, has seen a remarkable 59 per cent of the maritime fines issued in 2021 marked as ‘lost’, costing the regulator, and by extension, the public purse, hundreds of thousands of euro.

The story was initially picked up by The Shift last November when it reported that a senior official at Transport Malta was cancelling fines in exchange for weekend breaks and other financial benefits.

The story seems to have flown under the radar of mainstream media until Nationalist Party MPs started asking questions about it in Parliament in February, and earlier this month, MaltaToday reported that three senior officials within the Maritime Enforcement Unit are involved in tampering with the fines, approaching boaters with an offer to drop the case against them – often involving fines of over €2,000 and the possible temporary revocation of their licence – against a €150 fee, pocketed by the officials.

The Opposition Nationalist Party has called for an internal probe into the allegations, but until this week, Transport Malta has not divulged any information, pointing to an ongoing police investigation that has however been described as lethargic.

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