Updated 8.10am

Malta’s Independence monument was transformed into a mock tribute to prime ministerial chief of staff Keith Schembri overnight, as guerilla activists added a makeshift plaque and Azeri flag to the iconic bronze statue.

Activist group Reżistenza covered the Floriana monument’s existing plaque with one paying tribute to “H.E El Kasco”, describing him as the “Governor of these islands”.

“In Memory of the Surrender of the Islands of Malta to the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the mock plaque noted. Activists also added an Azeri flag to the statue's female figure.

"Kasco" is the name of Mr Schembri's group of companies. 

The guerilla protest comes as Mr Schembri faces allegations of having received $430,000 from “unexplained sources” just five weeks after he was part of an unannounced high-level delegation to Azeri capital Baku.

Mr Schembri has not yet addressed the claims, published on Manuel Delia’s blog, although Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has “categorically” denied them, describing them as “inventions”.

In a statement sent on Thursday morning, the activist group said that it was evident that the Maltese government's decisions are not being taken in the national interest.

They highlighted concerns about top officials' secretive trips to Azerbaijan and the government's 18-year deal to buy LNG from Azeri-owned Socar as cases in point. 

"Why was Gasol involved at all and how much money did it make on the sale of its Electrogas shares?" they asked. 

Gasol was one of the Electrogas consortium's original shareholders before backing out of the partnership in 2015 after reports that it was in financial trouble. 

"There are too many questions without answers and news reports without investigations," the activists said. 

Reżistenza have in the past been responsible for setting up a "naked" prime ministerial figurine outside the Auberge de Castille in May and a dummy doll of former Pilatus Bank chairman Ali Sadr Hashemenijad outside the FIAU's offices. 

Floriana's Independence Monument was designed by Ġanni Bonnici and unveiled in 1989 to mark Malta’s 25th year of independence. The bronze and marble statue is 8.5 metres high, with the female figure symbolising Malta as she frees herself of the shackles of the past and strides towards her independence.

Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/ReutersPhoto: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

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