PM’s communications chief says Pullicino Orlando ‘felt ill’ over Mistra scandal
Leaked transcript of alleged telephone conversation between Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Gordon Pisani on Mistra scandal.
18 July 2012, 12:00am
A leaked transcript of an alleged telephone conversation between Gordon Pisani, who was PN information director during the 2008 elections, and MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, purports to reinforce the impression that the MP had been economical with the truth over his implication in the Mistra scandal that threatened to lose the PN its re-election.
The transcript, presented to the PN's executive which yesterday exonerated its chief party strategist Richard Cachia Caruana from accusations of collusion by Pullicino Orlando, is dated Thursday, 6 March 2008 - the eve of the day of reflection prior to the election voting day.
The transcript seeks to reinforce a portrayal of Pullicino Orlando, first made by Cachia Caruana in an interview to The Times, as having 'misled' the party when he did not reveal beforehand his €1.9 million contract that was the subject of corruption allegations by Alfred Sant.
Cachia Caruana was deposed from his post as ambassador to the EU after Pullicino Orlando voted with the Opposition in a resignation motion, which accused the permanent representative of reactivating Malta's participation in Nato's Partnership for Peace without parliamentary approval.
Pisani was one of the witnesses brought in to testify by Pullicino Orlando on his accusations of collusion against Cachia Caruana.
According to the 'approximate reflection' of the conversation, as prefaced by Pisani, Pullicino Orlando is said to have "felt ill" at news that then Labour leader Alfred Sant had broadcast a copy of the contract that proved the MP had rented his Mistra land for an open-air disco, when he had emphatically claimed in public that he was unaware of the planning application on his land.
When Sant alleged that the MP had used his influence to secure a planning permit for the disco, Pullicino Orlando claimed that he did not know the details of the Mistra application or the developer of the proposed discotheque located in the protected area.
It was only in the final day of the electoral campaign - and in a historical error for Labour, a day too late - during a televised debate with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, that Sant revealed the contract signed between Pullicino Orlando and the developers of the discotheque: the contract, signed on 17 January 2008, stipulated he would earn €1.9 million over a 15-year lease.
Despite the damning revelation, Pullicino Orlando was elected from two electoral districts, gaining 5,131 first count votes.
Transcript - translated from the Maltese
Two telephonic conversations between Gordon Pisani with Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Thursday 6 March 2008.
The first call was made after recording of the debate between the Prime Minister and Opposition leader Alfred Sant was finished. Sant had shown a copy of the contract during the recording. As much as is possible, the transcript reflects the words that were said.
GP: Jeffrey, you have the contract of the Mistra rent.
GP: Alfred Sant has just shown the contract you have on Mistra on television. You have a contract.
JPO: I feel ill.
GP: Come over to headquarters and bring a copy of the contract for Joe Saliba [secretary-general]. This is just great [Din gdida].
JPO: I feel ill. I'm not well.
GP: I'm not interested. Look at what you've got the party in. Come now.
JPO: I can't make it.
GP: I'm sending you a messenger to bring you here from home.
JPO: I can't make it.
GP: Is the contract worth hundreds, thousands...?
JPO: Isn't it better you don't know.
GP: Tens of thousands?
JPO: Large amounts.
GP: Is it embarrassing to the party?
JPO: I feel ill.
GP: Jeffrey, I'm sending the messenger over, to bring you to headquarters and bring with you a copy of that contract with you. You've put us in a pickle. The messenger is coming home to you now.
I went to Pisani Buildings at the office of Joe Saliba. There was Richard Cachia Caruana as well. I told them we had a problem. Jeffrey had a contract. I informed them that I had sent a messenger to Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando's house.
The messenger went to his house but Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando did not open the door for him. After the messenger called that nobody had opened the door for him, so I called Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando repeatedly until he answered because he was not answering the calls.
GP: Jeffrey, the messenger has arrived and you haven't opened the door for him.
JPO: I'm going to see if I can get a lift with somebody.
GP: The party is crumbling. Come now.
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando came a half-hour after the second call. He arrived with his lawyer Alex Perici Clascione and alo present were GP [Gordon Pisani] and JS [Joe Saliba]. Jeffrey said he had searched for the contract all over the house but he hadn't found it and could not remember where he had placed it. He made his defence that he had every right to make that contract and that there was no corruption involved. He said the contract was made so that he could have a good income.
Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said he wanted to go back home to look for the contract. He left with Alex Perici Calascione and they came back within less than fifteen minutes with the contract in hand.
Afterwards a discussion took place as to what Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando had to do from that time onwards, to issue a statement and go to the Commissioner of Police.
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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