gozo

A labour agency operating out of Gozo, led by Gozitan, Slovenian and Serbian nationals, has been accused of fraud by an immigration consultancy based in Dubai after the latter paid the Gozitan company for services which it says were never rendered.

The foreign company is now alleging that the local agency, registered at the office of a Gozitan corporate services provider, stopped all communication after receiving the payments.

The Gozitan labour agency has hit back at the claim, pinning the blame on the company in Dubai for not responding to emails from Identity Malta, saying that the procedure’s continuation depended on such response.

Aditi Katyal, managing director of Fairmont Immigration Consultants, based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, approached BusinessNow.mt, expressing frustration at the lack of legal protection afforded to foreign companies in such cases.

Fairmont, which helps candidates searching for work opportunities in European countries, was approached by a Malta-registered recruitment company with three equal shareholders hailing from Gozo, Slovenia and Serbia.

Fairmont shared with BusinessNow.mt the official documents submitted by the Gozo-registered company as evidence of its legitimacy, including its company registration document and VAT department papers.

“Trusting his word and his documents we proceeded with a contract of recruitment. After sharing travel documents and candidates’ profiles, he shared some offer letters with employers in Malta, Germany and Croatia.”

Ms Katyal continues: “But on the other hand he was not processing the work permits which is a mandatory requirement for candidates to work legally in any country in Europe.”

Fairmont, in communication with one of the Gozitan company’s owners, allegedly paid €9,000 to initiate employment services, with the money sent to a bank account held by what appears to be his romantic partner with Wise Euro Bank SA in Belgium.

However, Fairmont claims that the local labour agency stopped responding to its calls, emails and Whatsapp Messages from 29th November 2022.

Repeated attempts by BusinessNow.mt to contact the Gozitan company revealed its nebulous presence, with an amateur website and several inactive phone numbers.

Of the two numbers listed on their website, one is inactive and the other was picked up by an Italian Bolt driver. Further investigation resulted that this second number is also listed by a hotel services company owned by an Mtarfa resident.

Contact with one of the Gozitan company’s owners was finally achieved. When confronted with the claims, he sent a barrage of angry messages containing threats of legal action if the story is published.

Ms Katyal explains that Fairmont is “liable to our candidates as this was a loss for them, their finances and time”, adding that “it is a plea, as we are a small company providing ethical and legitimate services”.

BusinessNow.mt has seen evidence of contracts entered into by Fairmont to provide workers, largely from Nepal, to the Gozitan company to work with two Gozitan enterprises – Horizon, a restaurant and guesthouse, and Grand Hotel Gozo.

A Horizon manager told BusinessNow.mt that he is not familiar with any of the names associated with the Gozitan recruitment agency, and denied contracting it to provide labour for the hospitality business.

Grand Hotel Gozo could not be contacted for comment.

Since first making contact, Fairmont has engaged a local lawyer and submitted a complaint to the Malta Police Force’s Economic Crimes Division. Investigations, police say, are ongoing.

Malta’s immigration solution

The Labour Party’s landslide win in 2013 heralded a new economic policy devised by Clyde Caruana, who headed the national employment agency JobsPlus at the time.

Mr Caruana is currently Malta’s Finance and Employment Minister.

The policy relied on population growth as a driver for economic growth, with the influx of short-term workers paying national insurance locally also touted as a solution for the long-term sustainability of pensions.

Since then, Malta’s population has increased by around 25 per cent, with tens of thousands of foreigners migrating to the country to take up positions in industries as varied as construction, hospitality, and healthcare.

The demand for basic groceries, consumer goods, rental properties, and restaurants and entertainment grew apace with the population, leading to a strong economic boom that has changed Malta’s urban and social fabric.

Allegations of exploitation have been levied at a system that seeks to emulate places like Dubai, where a large migrant population often lacks basic protections.

These include deaths of unnamed foreigners on construction sites, unpaid wages to entire groups, and a multitude of stories about landlords’ abuse.

Fairmont’s claims continue to shed light on a phenomenon that has characterised Malta’s development over the last decade, and the legal uncertainties faced companies that are not necessarily familiar with Malta’s particularities.

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