MaltaToday: Michael Falzon’s ‘hunting party’ dead birds confiscated
NEWS | Sunday, 20 January 2008

Michael Falzon’s ‘hunting party’ dead birds confiscated

Matthew Vella

A hunting party that included Labour deputy leader Michael Falzon had its wild bird carcasses confiscated by the chief veterinary officer upon returning from Romania for testing for avian influenza (bird flu).
The hunting holiday organised by Richard Cilia – a former PRO of the Federazzjoni Kaccaturi Nassaba Konservazzjonisti (FKNK), and who is now a council member – took place last December.
Cilia is considered to be one of the hunting lobby’s most militant activists, and his trip to Romania with the MLP deputy leader Michael Falzon confirms the close ties between Falzon and FKNK members. Falzon has often remarked he does not practise hunting in Malta, except on trips abroad.
The luggage of the hunting party was confiscated by customs officials at Malta International Airport upon arriving from Romania since it contained 21 pieces of bird skins of wild ducks and other birds which had to be tested for bird flu.
Speaking to MaltaToday this week, Falzon said his luggage was not among those confiscated for testing.
“I received a notification to collect my luggage from customs when it arrived in Malta, since we had already landed earlier on a different plane. I collected my luggage and there was nothing irregular – my luggage was not confiscated and it was retrieved regularly,” Falzon said, while repeatedly warning he would serve this newspaper with a suit for criminal libel over any irregularities. Michael Falzon has served MaltaToday with several libel suits in the past over reports and comments related to his hysterical outburst at a Labour party club.
Richard Cilia, who also spoke to MaltaToday, said: “Michael’s (Falzon) luggage was not among those confiscated because it had no bird skins. All birds were caught legally and we informed customs ourselves of the bird skins so that they could be sent to the veterinary division for testing for bird flu.”
Correspondence seen by MaltaToday confirms that the permanent secretariat at the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment was informed that on 7 December, customs officials informed the secretariat at around 11pm that it needed its assistance regarding bird skins imported from Romania.
Michael Falzon, who will be standing in the tenth district and second district as a candidate, told this newspaper it was “nobody’s business where he goes on holiday”, while confirming he had no bird skins in his luggage. He also said he collected the luggage the evening of Labour’s DJ Jaba concert, which fell on the night of 7 December.
Internal correspondence within the ministry confirmed that customs “had confiscated bird skins arriving from Romania by three Maltese hunters that went on a ‘hunting holiday’. The skins were confiscated as we instructed customs to hold anything related to poultry after cases of confirmed H5N1 in Romania.”
“Since the skins… pose a certain degree of risk of introduction of Avian Influenza, it was decided that they will be temporarily confiscated until they are tested for any presence of the H5N1 virus.”
The skins were held in a freezer at customs offices in MIA and later transferred to a freezer in the lab at the Veterinary Affairs and Fisheries Division in Marsa the 3 January 2008, “under the supervision of Richard Cilia who is the organiser of these ‘hunting tours’. The skins were handed over to Noel Demicoli for eventual swabbing and testing procedures.”
The VAFD is currently awaiting the test results, and all skins will be handed over to their owners once the results are negative.


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