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Mifsud confirmed that MFA used to retain part of funds – report

Official figures were inflated to tally with UEFA’s amount

Norman Darmanin Demajo’s allegations over irregularities have been vindicated.

Norman Darmanin Demajo’s allegations over irregularities have been vindicated.

Former Malta FA president Joe Mifsud has admitted that the MFA used to retain a portion of the UEFA solidarity payments for clubs, a review carried out by the association’s board of internal auditors has found.

The findings of the ’ inquiry were revealed during a meeting of the MFA council yesterday.

The case was thrust back into the limelight last September when Norman Darmanin Demajo, the MFA president, announced that a report by the association’s financial department had shown that, for around five years the MFA, then under the helm of Dr Mifsud, had withheld around €70,000 from the annual solidarity payments.

Silvio Galea, the chairman of the three-man board of internal auditors, read out the report which found that between seasons 2002-03 and 2006-07, the MFA withheld around €68,000 from money derived from the UEFA solidarity payments which ought to have been distributed in full among the clubs.

In that five-year period, the payments were distributed as follows: in 2002-03, MFA handed out €167,714 and retained €16,088; 2003-04 €165,386 paid, €8,798 retained; 2004-05 €165,385 paid, €15,263 retained; 2005-06 €165,386 paid, €14,498 retained; 2007-08 €170,044 paid, €12,122 retained; 2007-08 €173,496 paid (almost the full amount).

The report states that, during his interview with the members of the board, “Dr Mifsud confirmed that parts of the funds were not distributed to clubs and were retained by the MFA”.

Apart from the grants awarded to the Youth FA and Gozo FA, which had the approval of the council, the MFA invested the remaining money in its youth sector, Dr Mifsud told the board.

The board traced all but one of the documents the Malta FA sent to UEFA which contained a breakdown of how the solidarity payments were distributed. According to the board, the figures on these letters “were inflated to tally with the amount allocated by UEFA”.

It emerged yesterday that, while the council members had given the MFA the green light to allocate part of the solidarity payments to the GFA and Youth FA, they were oblivious to the fact that a portion was being retained by the association.

During his meeting with the board, Dr Mifsud also said that he had informally advised some UEFA officials about how the MFA was distributing the solidarity payments.

According to the report, Dr Mifsud declared that MFA vice-president Ludovico Micallef and Joe Gauci, the association’s general secretary, used to assist him in the compilation of the workings but both have denied such claims.

Gauci said that he only used to sign the enclosing letter that was sent to UEFA but not the document containing the details of how the payments had been distributed.

For his part, Micallef insisted that he was only responsible for dividing the sum of money as communicated to him by Dr Mifsud but was unaware that that amount may have been tweaked.

Micallef has also taken the step of making a sworn statement about the matter. “I knew that a document showing how the money received was distributed had to be sent to UEFA every year,” Micallef states in his statement. “I never saw this document and I was never involved in the drawing up of the inflated lists which were sent to UEFA.

“I never knew that Dr Mifsud was withholding money from the amount received, and it was only recently, when this fact was announced by the present president – Mr Norman Darmanin Demajo, that I became aware of it.”

The board also questioned Alex Manfrè, another MFA vice-president who was the association’s honorary treasurer at the time. Manfrè said that he was not aware of the feedback given to UEFA by the MFA.

The report concludes that, for four years, the Malta FA had breached the UEFA solidarity payments scheme’s rules in that the amount was not transferred to the clubs in full.

Reacting to the audit report, Darmanin Demajo said that this was a serious abuse of power that had been going on for years.

The MFA president also alleged irregularities in the way the MFA administered the UEFA mini-pitches scheme a few years back.

“The UEFA mini-pitches... I was convinced that there was something wrong when I heard that the MFA was charging clubs for the installation,” he said.

“All the costs were covered by UEFA and yet clubs and even id-Dar tal-Providenza were charged for the installation of these pitches.”

Asked to give his reaction about the audit report, Dr Mifsud told The Times: “Did they say that part of these funds are still being given to the GFA and Youth FA? What was done then is still being done today and this is not according to the UEFA guidelines.”

On the money retained by the Malta FA, Dr Mifsud said that a fraction of the solidarity payments was allocated to the association’s “school of football”.

On Darmanin Demajo’s allegations about the UEFA mini-pitches, Dr Mifsud was adamant that the UEFA grants didn’t cover the installation of the artificial pitches.

Darmanin Demajo said that the MFA officials who served on the council in 2008, when he sent a letter to the MFA about alleged misappropriation of funds received from UEFA, must shoulder part of the blame because they stayed silent.

“When you are weak and afraid to talk, you are giving anyone who occupies this seat the liberty to do what he wants with the excuse that it’s being done for the benefit of this or that,” he said.

The Malta FA president also touched on the circumstances that led to his resignation as MFA honorary treasurer when he had flagged certain irregularities in the way contracts were being signed by the MFA.

“At the time, the council members voted in favour of an extraordinary general meeting which gave a vote of confidence to Dr Mifsud... you gave him a passport to do what he likes,” he said.

“I hope that we have learnt our lessons. We want to send a strong message that you can’t abuse your position and you leave as if nothing has happened. I’m prepared to forgive and move on but lessons must be learnt.”

The MFA council agreed to issue a declaration condemning any kind of abuse that may have taken place in the past.

A proposal by Birkirkara official Adrian Delia for the MFA to investigate whether those who have signed the documents that were sent to UEFA knew what was going on or whether they were misled was also endorsed by the council members.

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