The reply of Eugenio Ajroldi di Robbiate, director of the communications office of the Order of Malta, to what was published on March 23 by Settimo Cielo on “the mystery of those 30 million Swiss francs,” has not been passed over in silence by other knights of the Order, closer to the mental workings of former Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, forced to hand in his resignation last January 24 to Pope Francis in person.
This is what is attested to in the following letter, from a person very well-informed on the affairs of the Order, rich in information that in its turn contradicts, corrects, or completes what has been stated by the official spokesman.
Sometimes even those responsible for the external communications of big organizations make mistaken or imprecise statements. There is no exemption to this rule for the Order of Malta, which recently has generated great confusion, especially on the New Zealand CPVG trust with its Swiss fiduciary, at first denying its existence and then creating a great deal of confusion on the legal circumstances that have led to opposition between the Order and the trust.
A few clarifications need to be made on the latest position statement of the Order, to correct or contradict its contents.
Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager was not removed as an elected member of the Sovereign Council, but because a disciplinary procedure had been initiated against him. The circumstance had determined his suspension as a member of the Order, and therefore his automatic disqualification from the position of Grand Chancellor. The whole procedure had been examined by the Office of the Advocate General, which had confirmed its validity. All the circumstances were reported in a statement on the website of the Order, which was later removed. The Grand Master had attached a copy to a letter sent to numerous personalties connected to the Order on January 14, 2017. Over the last 15 years, two members of the Sovereign Council, both Italian, have resigned from their positions at the request of the Grand Master.
The Grand Master, as related in the report of the Ethics Committee of the Order, which he set up in 2015, learned about the distribution of condoms and abortifacient pills (in the period 2004-2014, then resumed in 2015) by Malteser International at the end of 2014, after a meeting of the Hospitallers of the Order held in Hong Kong. After the institution of the Ethics Committee and the publication of the report (early 2016) the Grand Master asked for an opinion from Cardinal Gerhard Müller, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (March 12, 2016), after which he began to pressure Boeselager. No debate, therefore, in the presence of the Grand Master or in the Sovereign Council on the distribution of birth control and abortifacient pills before the end of 2014, as also confirmed by the Grand Master in a letter of April 8, 2016.
In the previously cited letter of January 14, 2017, the Grand Master announced the completed constitution of a professional commission within the Order to bring clarity on the events of the New Zealand trust. This circumstance generated the strong acceleration of events that led to the forced resignation of the Grand Master himself. Evidently no one wants light to be shed on the trust, its money and where this comes from. Therefore it is not accurate to say that the internal commission did not exist; in fact, its constitution had been officially announced.
The suit against the fiduciary of the CPVG trust had been initiated with a criminal complaint to the public prosecutor on the part of two physical persons, on April 26, 2013. On the same date, the public prosecutor opened criminal proceedings against persons unknown for “Gestion déloyale qualifiée, abus de confiance e blanchiment d’argent.” The Order of Malta and the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God in turn presented a criminal complaint against the same fiduciary, joining the suit on May 10, 2013.
The assets of the CPVG trust were frozen on April 29, 2013. A request from the fiduciary of the trust aimed at getting the assets unfrozen was reject by the criminal appeals court of the Court of Justice in Geneva on April 30, 2014. The assets are still frozen.
With regard to the presumed conflict of interest, reiterated and substantiated by the Grand Master in the letter of January 14, 2017, of three members of the commission appointed by the Secretariat of State on December 21, 2016, it would be rather astonishing if there were an admission of such conflict on the part of the Sectretariat of State itself.
It has been stated by the Order that out of the 30 million Swiss francs kindly donated by the CPVG trust, 3 million have already been distributed.
So then, between 2012 and 2013 Marc Odendall, with what authority it is not clear, negotiated a donation “to the Order of Malta” of around 2 million euros (not 3 million Swiss francs) with the fiduciary of the CPVG trust. Of this 2 million, about one million was distributed to Malteser International (but perhaps Boeselager, as with the condoms, was unaware of it).
100,000 Swiss francs were also donated to a foundation called “Caritas in Veritate,” headed by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, in that it is a project supported by Odendall in his capacity as representative of the international Order of Malta (sic). In 2014, when the assets were frozen, Tomasi and Odendall, together with Marwan Senhaoui, tried to convince then-Grand Master Jean-Pierre Mazery to sign a transaction with the fiduciary of the trust. Together with Boeselager after he became Grand Chancellor following Mazery, they continued to solicit the Grand Master over the subsequent years. On December 21, 2016, the three were appointed to the commission set up by the Secretariat of State.
The decision to drop the charges against the CPVG trust in Geneva is thought to have been made by the government of the Order in 2016. But here it would be necessary to better define the government of the Order. In fact neither the Grand Master, who to the very last always denied the authorization to sign, nor the Sovereign Council, which according to some of its members never discussed issues connected to the trust, ever deliberately decided to drop the charges. What the government of the Order could mean, therefore, is not clear and is a concept unknown to the Constitution and Code of the Order.
There is cited a decision in January of 2017 to drop the charges, but any act of governance in the period between December 6, 2016 and January 28, 2017 was declared null first by the Secretariat of State (January 25, 2017) and then by the Sovereign Council, which on January 28, 2017 ratified the action. It would therefore have been necessary to have suspended any action and to have waited for a new Grand Master to take office before signing the transaction.
Concerning the destination of the donation, the hope is that it may not be used to buy condoms, but for humanitarian projects under the full governance of the Order and not of a clique of Germans through organizations that they control.
There remains that legitimate doubt over the origin of these 30 million Swiss francs. They appear in fact to have come from a foundation in Liechtenstein named Malta Stiftung, and then to have gone through a Malta trust under New Zealand law before they finally arrived at the CPVG, this too under New Zealand law. But in the case that pitted the Order against the fiduciary, there were also cited two foundations based in Panama and another New Zealand trust. A strange roundabout.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)