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Updated | Cachia Caruana denies former minister’s allegations on Air Malta meeting, Vella deposits affidavit

Labour MP Karmenu Vella presents sworn affidavit of Richard Cachia Caruana meeting.

Matthew Vella
12 July 2012, 12:00am
Richard Cachia Caruana has denied claims by former Labour minister Karmenu Vella.
Updated at 11:38am with statement by Karmenu Vella

Labour MP Karmenu Vella has presented a sworn affidavit in which he claims former permanent representative to the EU, Richard Cachia Caruana had asked to meet him back in 1997 over decisions taken by Air Malta when he was a board member.

In his affidavit, Vella says that after being appointed minister for tourism, Cachia Caruana had specifically asked to meet him to discuss the decisions concerning the setting-up of the Azzurra Air subsidiary and the acquisition of a fleet of RJ-70s.

"I had never met him before and the meeting was a short one because I felt I had no need to hear anything more from him," Vella says in his affidavit.

"Cachia Caruana told me that although he was a member of the board of Air Malta, he had not agreed with the decisions to acquire the RJ70s and set up Azzurr Air, and that this was some 'dream' of other board members.

"I instantly understood he wanted to disassociate himself from these decisions and shift the burden of the responsibility of these wrong decisions on his other colleagues, so that he could curry favour with me."

Vella says in his affidavit that he had asked Cachia Caruana whether he had registered his disagreement with a vote or a minority report. "He said no. I therefore reminded him that every board member had the collective responsibility of the board's decisions. At that point I felt Cachia Caruana had tried to use me to attack his colleagues. I was not ready to play his game and I felt I had to stop the discussion there."

Malta's former permanent representative to the European Union has denied claims by Labour MP Karmenu Vella, in a conversation he is alleged to have had over controversial decisions taken during his time as a director on Air Malta.

Vella is one of the witnesses Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has named to testify on an accusation of collusion against Richard Cachia Caruana, the former ambassador and chief PN strategist, whom he wants expelled from the party.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Vella said that Cachia Caruana had told him - during the time he served as tourism minister under Alfred Sant's Labour government between 1996-1998 - that as director on the Air Malta board he had been against the ill-fated decisions to set up the subsidiary Azzurra Air and purchase a fleet of RJ-70s, but had not registered his disagreement with the board of directors.

Cachia Caruana issued a statement late yesterday evening denying the claims. Cachia Caruana, whose resignation was secured in a motion moved by the Opposition and supported by Pullicino Orlando, is being accused by the selfsame MP of "collusion" with Labour officials.

"I emphatically deny all these allegations that I had asked to meet Karmenu Vella or had made some contact with him," Cachia Caruana said.

Jeffrey Pullicino OrlandoANALYSIS Day of reckoning inside PN headquarters

Cachia Caruana said all decisions inside Air Malta on the RJ-70s and the Azzurra subsidiary were unanimous decisions of the board, based on technical and financial advice by the airline's management. "Air Malta aimed at increasing its flights by over 35% and establish itself as a regional hub. After lengthy evaluations, the board accepted the management's recommendation to make this investment, unanimously," he said of the Azzurra misadventure.

Cachia Caruana said the purchase of the RJ-70 fleet, which was later sold off, was based on a 10-year trip-cost guarantee that all operational expenses would be covered.

"When technical problems started surfacing and the Air Malta directors informed management to exercise these guarantees, it was only at this stage that the management told us these guarantees had been in fact left out of the contract without the board having ever been informed of this."

Cachia Caruana said he personally, as well as the other directors, demanded an explanation for the grave omission that had changed the RJ-70 contract. "In March 1997, we appointed a board of inquiry to investigate the acquisition of the fleet," Cachia Caruana said. "As far as I know this inquiry was never published by the board of directors later appointed by Karmenu Vella, which he should now explain."

"No affidavit by Vella can spin a vile lie as this into gospel truth. The actions and decisions of the board are all documented and I have nothing to hide... Vella wants to cover up the actions of the Air Malta directors he appointed, 15 years later, by blaming somebody else for his own actions.

"Vella should declare who, from the Air Malta management, left out the contractual clauses for the trip-cost guarantees that would have secured the viability of the RJ-70, and why the board of directors never published the inquiry."

Karmenu Vella is claiming that in 1996, Cachia Caruana informed him of the decisions taken by the board of directors at Air Malta in regards to the purchase of a fleet of RJs and for the setting up of the subsidiary company Azzurra Air.

"He called to inform me that he, as a director, opposed the decisions of the board of directors. When I asked him, he admitted that he had not registered his disagreement."

Vella also noted that he met Pullicino Orlando at a social event a few days ago and discussed the meeting he had with Cachia Caruana. "It became immediately apparent that Richard Cachia Caruana not only disagreed with the decisions, but appeared to be trying to distance himself from them and shifting the responsibility to the other board members."

Vella added that when he saw that Cachia Caruana was trying to shrug off collective responsibility and shift the blame on his colleagues, "I felt I did not need to continue that conversation. I thanked him, and it ended there."

The MP said that he would declare all this in a sworn statement.

Although Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has presented his list of witnesses in a statement to the press, the Nationalist Party said on Thursday morning that executive committee president Marthese Portelli has not yet officially received the letter.

Another witness he has called in to testify to the PN executive is the Prime Minister's head of communications, Gordon Pisani, who said Pullicino Orlando's accuations "are totally unfounded".

"I declare I know of not facts or information that could be, either directly or indirectly, some basis for any of the accusations Pullicino Orlando made against Cachia Caruana. I will appear before the executive committee to confirm this."

Pullicino Orlando, who until recently was condemned for his vote in favour of the Opposition motion by the PN executive, is now asking the same committee to expel Cachia Caruana who has been inside the Nationalist's nerve centre since the early 1980s at the side of party grandee and former prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami.

He claims Cachia Caruana colluded with high-ranking members of the Labour administration led by Alfred Sant between 1996 and 1998 "in an attempt at furthering his personal interests whilst putting his colleagues in the Nationalist administration led by Dr Eddie Fenech Adami between 1987 and 1996 in a bad light."

His witnesses are Labour MPs Karmenu Vella and Joe Mizzi, formerly also Labour ministers; former Nationalist minister now EU Commissioner for health John Dalli; the Prime Minister's head of communications Gordon Pisani, and Commissioner of Police John Rizzo.

Matthew Vella is editor and MaltaToday on Sunday.

He joined Mediat...
guido cutajar
@ fed Up...ghal li jista ikun ..din il gazzetta mhux it Times of Malta hux...ghax jien ilni li tajta il bon ser vita...habib...Fi blogg iggib 8 kummenti ta nazzjonalist u wiehed tieghi ghax laburist.Ahrabha habib ..Nahseb li ahjar tikteb fuq il Mument milli fit Times id demokratika u indipendent...tar ras
Jes Abela
Ex Ministru Socjalista Vella..... ftit gimghat ilu tkellem ma JPO xkien qallu RCC xi hmistax il sena ilu. Illum sirna nafu li il prim ministru ta dak iz zmien Dr A Sant ma kien jaf b'xejn u sema kollox din il gimgha. Allura nistaqsi jiena u nghid stramba naqa li il GUY mar jitkellem ma JPO hmistax il sena wara l-kaz u dan ex ministru socjalista ma kien qal xejn lil prim ministru tieghu Sant. Karmenu Vella ahna nistaw nemnuk u nafdawk? kif ma kontx tkellmit xejn ma AS dak iz zmien? u mort tkellmt issa ma JPO. Nistaw nemmnuk lilek li meta kont ministru bqajt diehel bil yacht ma sihbek fil bajja ta l-ghadira meta suppost bqajt sejjer il port u tiddikjara mad dwana xkont dahalt minn sqallija. Jekk int insejt Perit ahna ma nsejnix.
charles philip zammit
lill perit karmenu vella ili nafu sa minn meta konna il liceo flimkien, iktar madwar hamsin sena ilu. gentlom, bniedem ta integrita, bniedem li xorta baqa saqajh ma l art, ikellem il kullhadd u jinzel u jitla ghall livelli ta min ikun qed ikellmu. ghalieh ma hemmx dak u l iehor ahmar u blu. is sur richard cachia caruana ma nafux qrajt fuqu biss dak li inghad fil gurnali u smajt l istarrija arroganti li hu irnexxielu jgib f disset qabel dan il programm kien rah il poplu malti. arroganti ghax qad jiftahar bdak bdak li ghamel ara it telfa tal 1996 is sur cachia caruana ma semmijiex, bhal ma semmiex iz zewgt telfiet infila fl elezzjonijiet ghal parlament tal eu li incidentalment is sur cachia caruana kien l ambaxxatur malti ghal eu. ghalija il kelma ta karmenu vella hija kollha veritiera.
guido cutajar
rajah, Qeghed tizloq fin nixef habib.Int tan nice Guy qeghed taghmel plejtu. Il Prim Ministru bla ma qal lil hadd seraq 600 ewro fil gimgha ghalih u ghal tal qalba min fuq il poplu.U haduhom ghal tlett snin shah ja vili, u lilek ghollilek il gass, il petrol,u il hajja generali. Il vilta hija li l`anqas radduhom lura dak li serqu, u biex jitfaw il melh fuq il ferita qallek li jekk jerga jitla ser jerga jehodhom, ovvja bil ` back money `..Ta l`anqas jekk huwa veru, in nice Guy ma seraq lil hadd.
Andrew Spiteri
This is Karmenu Vella's word against RCC's word. One only has to ask one question here. Who has the interest of covering his ass, by lying if need be, Vella or RCC? There is absolutely no reason why Karmenu Vella should not be saying the truth! He is not the one on trial. Methinks RCC may have this incident when he tried to cover his ass with the Labour Party in govt.!!
Din ta l-AIR MALTA ta cuc Malti li jien hija il latu tal- borma...Ghaliex ma nikxfuhx dan il latu halli johrog il-fwar eh ??
Basil Borg
IT-gazzttaewlenija bl-Ingliz qed tkompli bic-censura; uza aggettivi li tridt kontra il-PL, imma l-istess aggettivi ma jistghux jituzaw fil-konfront tal-PN? Din tissjajjah 'linji gwida' jew partigganizmu sfaccat? U psewdonomu, jaqaw mhux ghal kulhadd qieghed?
david paul pace
So let me see if i got this right. The whole affair is about an internal PN struggle for leadership. Two PL MPs are asked to testify in the internal PN feud. Air Malta is brought up and RCC retaliates by stating that someone at Air Malta signed an agreement for the purchase of RJ's and makes a mess of it. Now let us focus here, this was done during the PN years and when RCC was on the board of Air Malta. The MLP won the elections in 1996 and stayed in office for 22 months. The PN came to power again in 1998 and have been in office ever since but RCC and the various PN appointed boards have kept their mouths shut about this but. NOW RCC is asking why Karmenu Vella did not publish the report!!!!1
Basil Borg
@rajah: Mr nice guy gie imetlla l-qorti ghal dak li qed tghid int u instab innocenti: qed tigdeb u qed tisogra libell fuq malafama! Kemm hawn Nazzjonalisti li dak iz-zmien gabu xorb l-Ghadira fuq il-Yacht taghhom......u min fuq jilghabuha ta vergni!
Basil Borg
@rajah: Mr nice guy gie imetlla l-qorti ghal dak li qed tghid int u instab innocenti: qed tigdeb u qed tisogra libell fuq malafama! Kemm hawn Nazzjonalisti li dak iz-zmien gabu xorb l-Ghadira fuq il-Yacht taghhom......u min fuq jilghabuha ta vergni!
joseph busuttil
ghaliex dawk in nies li kienu jidefendu lill JPO fuq il kaz tal Mistra f'daqqa wahda hargu fil berah jatakkawh bil kaz? Dawn kienu jafu li JPO ma kienx qeghed jghid il verita u ghattewlu?
Basil Borg
PN wants PL's viva voce witnesses; hilarious! Would they bring the Bidnija witch as a witness too?
Jes Abela
Dan in nice 'guy' kien ha affidavit meta kien ministru u baqa diehel bil yacht l-ghadira flimkien ma sihbu. X'tahseb sur Privitera kien ha gurament dak in nhar li kien nesa miskin li jrid jiddikjara ma dwana.( nahseb int tiftakar sew ux )
Anthony Azzopardi
It is too early to comment or separate the wheat from the chaff in this political embarrassment for Malta and its politicians who continually succeed to place demoralizing cabals on that political bravados and then discover how utterly shameful they really were. We have 5 professionals on the witness list of JPO starting with a Police Commissioner /an EU Commissioner/ 2 MP’s on the opposition benches and the Prime Minister’s Head of Communications. On the other side you have RCC whose main line of defense so far seems to be that he denies whatever the other side has presented on any sworn statements. Let’s remember that this is the same RCC on whose life an attempt was made by known criminals and nobody tries to kill you for being a good person. Someone who was established in the media as EFA main consultant, so only God knows what sleaze could be found there. The most highly paid Civil Servant, whose salaries and benefits were equal to a yearly allocation by socials services for housing to help 300 families. An Ambassador with diplomatic immunity that makes you question why he needed diplomatic immunity to operate as EU representative in Brussels. When all is said and done, then we could truly gage the democratic circumstances of an abuse of power that would probably make the 1970‘s & 1980‘s seem timid in comparison.
eddy privitera
The Hon. Karmenu Vella has presented his version of events concerning RCC in a sworn affidavit. RCC's statement, as far as I know, is not accompanied by a sworn statement !
Tony Fenech
Sur Cachia Caruana qieghed jikkontratixxi lil Dr.Gonzi Priministru meta qal dan l-ahhar jiem li ma kienx Cachia Caruana L-AirMalta ma kienitx issalva. Skuzi ta imma min meta dahlet il-praspura tal Azzurra Air L-AirMalta marret il-bahar u issa hawn qed jghid li uninamament kien qabel mal proposta ta L-Azzura Air. Lil min tista temmen fejn jitfa l-ankra is-Sur Cachua Caruana tinzel fuq fir-ramel.
Patrick Calleja
Pinocchio's nose grew longer and Cachia Caruana's teeth more crooked! Preaching gospel truth now! He's really lost all sense of reality! Wonder how far he'll go poor sod before he realizes how pathetic his situation has become, clinging by his wonder they're so crooked!
Polly Bonello
X.cuc kien Piju Mekkek hdejn dan it-tahwid u l-intricci kollha? Skond Guze Ellul Mercer dan Piju Mekkek kien il-hawwadi tar-rahal, dejjem jispjuna, jissindika, iqabbad li dan u lil l-ohra, biex jivvomitaw veleni fuq l-ohrajn; anke fuq shabu fil-klabb tal-banda.......sakemm dan Pju Mekkek sefa mibghud minn kulhadd u meta miet,la mar il-genna u l-anqas l-infern:ghax hadd ma riedu!
Xi hadd f'wicc din l-art stennieh li jghid li veru lil RCC jew?