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No conflict of interest with American University of Malta appointment, says BOV chair

Bank would not say whether AUM or shareholder are its clients

Taddeo Scerri

Taddeo Scerri

Bank of Valletta chairman Taddeo Scerri does not see any conflict of interest between his appointment as a member of the board of trustees of the American University of Malta (AUM) and his position at the bank.

At the same time, the bank did not reply when asked whether the AUM or its shareholder, Jordan’s Sadeen Group, are BOV clients and whether the Cospicua-based university had obtained financing from the bank.

Last week, The Sunday Times of Malta reported that the AUM’s board of trustees, kept under wraps by the university, included the BOV chairman and Adrian Hillman – the former managing director of Allied Newspapers currently undergoing a criminal investigation on claims of money laundering and tax evasion exposed by the Panama Papers.

Asked to explain his association with the AUM and whether his two hats may expose him to a serious conflict of interest, a spokesman for the bank said Mr Scerri saw none.

“However,” the spokesman added, “should such conflicts arise in the future, Mr Scerri would take all the necessary steps to properly manage and resolve any such conflict in accordance with best practice for good governance as required by Bank of Valletta policies.”

Mr Scerri confirmed that his appointment to the AUM’s board of trustees happened before he was appointed chairman of the BOV but during the time he was already a member of the bank’s board of directors representing the government.

Mr Scerri said that his appointment was made by Hani Salah, the Jordanian owner of the Sadeen Group.

The Jordanian group is the owner of the AUM and incorporated its companies in Malta through the services of Mr Scerri’s former auditing firm RSM. Mr Scerri is known to be close to the Labour Party and was the party’s auditor for many years.

Meanwhile, neither the AUM nor the University of Malta have replied to questions on the appointment of Mr Hillman as a trustee.

Asked whether Mr Hillman’s appointment impacts the reputation of the AUM negatively, since he is currently under criminal investigation together with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, the university’s provost, John Ryder, did not reply.

The University of Malta, where Mr Hillman is listed as a visiting lecturer teaching communications, has also refrained from replying to questions.

Rector Alfred Vella was asked whether it was allowed that a member of the University of Malta staff also sits on the board of trustees of a rival Maltese university. Prof. Vella was also asked whether he gave his green light to Mr Hillman’s appointment.

Meanwhile, despite starting its academic programme last September, it is still not known how many students are attending courses at the AUM.

In September, Provost John Ryder told the Times of Malta that the details would be published “in the coming week”.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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