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American University of Malta appoints Adrian Hillman as trustee

Former Allied Group managing director still under money laundering inquiry; university’s student numbers are still a mystery

Adrian Hillman’s appointment to the Board of Trustees of the American University of Malta has raised eyebrows. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Adrian Hillman’s appointment to the Board of Trustees of the American University of Malta has raised eyebrows. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Adrian Hillman, the former managing director of Allied Newspapers, has been appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American University of Malta despite being under a criminal inquiry into money laundering involving alleged kickbacks from the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Meanwhile, the AUM, which opened its doors last September, is still declining to say how many students it has managed to recruit, despite promises that the information would be made available soon.

Sources close to the AUM said that Mr Hillman has been appointed to the Board of Trustees of the AUM on the recommendation of senior government officials.

Although the list of the AUM’s Board of Trustees has been kept under wraps by the new university and is not even available on its website, this newspaper is informed that Mr Hillman and Taddeo Scerri – the former Labour Party auditor and current chairman of the Bank of Valletta – are the only Maltese on the board.

The other members include the owner of the Jordanian Sadeen Group behind the AUM Hani Salah, Taher Masri, who is a former prime minster of Jordan, and John Ryder, the provost of the new university.

The board is chaired by Prince Jean of Luxemburg who is involved in several international businesses.

AUM sources said that members of the faculty were “very surprised” when they learned that Mr Hillman had been made a trustee as they felt that in the circumstances his name would not bode well for the AUM’s reputation.

Last year, Mr Hillman resigned from all his positions within the Allied Group following revelations in the Panama Papers that he owned a secret company in the British Virgin Islands similar to the ones set up in Panama by Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna for Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, and Cabinet minister Konrad Mizzi.

Later, following an investigation by the anti-money laundering agency FIAU, made public by former PN leader Simon Busuttil, it was concluded that there was “reasonable suspicion” that Mr Schembri was involved in money laundering after he transferred hundreds of thousands of euros to Mr Hillman.

Asking the police to investigate further, the FIAU had concluded that there was “sufficient evidence to conclude a reasonable suspicion of money laundering and proceeds of crime” over the transfer of more than €650,000 from Mr Schembri to Mr Hillman in varying amounts and to different bank accounts.

Despite the FIAU reports, the police took no action, forcing the PN to ask the court to conduct a magisterial inquiry, which is still ongoing.

Both Mr Hillman and Mr Schembri deny the money-laundering allegations.

Meanwhile, despite starting its first academic year in September, the AUM is still keeping the number of students it managed to enrol a secret.

The Sunday Times of Malta has for six weeks been asking Prof. Ryder for the number of students following the four courses on offer.

Despite promises that the numbers would be available soon and that “they will be published in the coming weeks on the AUM’s website”, no information has been divulged yet.

Prof Ryder had admitted with this newspaper that recruitment was proving to be “very challenging”.

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