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Updated | PN’s secretary-general, CEO’s salaries paid by Seabank hotelier

The developers of a €300 million hotel project at the site of the ITS in St George's Bay have revealed they pay the salaries of the PN's top executive personnel

matthew_vella danielmizzi
Matthew Vella / Daniel Mizzi
5 March 2017, 7:39pm
PN secretary-general Rosette Thake (right) with Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
PN secretary-general Rosette Thake (right) with Opposition leader Simon Busuttil
The db Group, owners of the Seabank hotel who will be developing a €300 million Hard Rock Hotel on the site of the Institute of Tourism Studies, have revealed they paid the monthly salaries of PN secretary-general Rosette Thake and CEO Brian St John.

The declaration comes in the wake of statements by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who said CEO Arthur Gauci had warned he would no longer back the party financially over statements he made bringing into question the concession granted to the group at St George’s Bay.

Gauci said that he had texted Busuttil earlier in the afternoon saying: “We are requesting an urgent meeting with you so that the party pays back what our group was asked to give all this time.”

READ MORE Mario De Marco negotiated ITS concession for Seabank group with government

Busuttil said during a fund-raiser for the party that he would not stand for this kind of threat.

At 7:30pm, Gauci issued a statement saying that the db Group had been “specifically asked” to cover the monthly salaries of various PN personnel, both before Busuttil’s election as leader and after.

“More specifically since [Busuttil] became leader we were asked to cover the salaries of both the secretary-general and the party’s CEO.  Dr Simon Busuttil is fully abreast of both the request for these funds as well as their acceptance. Requests for funds from the PN have reached us as late as yesterday,” Gauci said.

Gauci said his group had never asked for any favours from the PN whenever it was in power or not.

“I reiterate that the funds were always requested by the PN and not donated by us. The db Group (formerly Seabank Group) welcomes the suggestion of the Opposition leader to have the contract it signed with government over the ITS site in St George's Bay scrutinized by the Auditor General,” Gauci said of the €60 million deal with the government for the land.

“No one in this country is more eager for the truth to win out on this matter than our Group. The reason is obvious to those who have the decency to hear. For the first time in history, the price of the public land in question was not determined by the parties to the deal but by Deloitte, an auditing firm of international repute. And we, as a Group, abided by its decision.

News of the db Group’s statement was followed by a Labour Party statement that it had accepted a €2,000 donation only in 2016. “Will Busuttil declare what deal the PN had with this group and how much money it took? Busuttil is calling this investor corrupt while admitting he has been accepting donations from the group for the past four years. While he said he had told Mario de Marco to stop taking legal work from the db Group, he is not ready to say he had a deal worth hundreds of thousands with the same people.”

The PN reacted by saying that “nobody believes the PL has only been given a €2,000 donation” and reiterated that no donation would stop the PN’s fight against corruption and “the most corrupt government in history”.

“We’re not for sale,” the PN continued.

The news was greeted by Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia, who has campaigned with the PN at its anti-corruption rallies, as a case of institutionalised criminality, “where certain decisions are either nonsensical or make sense only to business but not to the people.”

She said the db Group’s confirmation of its financing was the tip of an iceberg where businesses finance political parties.

“If more businesses declare their donations, the truth of our country’s political state will be revealed,” she said, warning that investors could hope for a level-playing field as the two large parties crumble amid the scandal of party financing. “The people would get the deals they deserve. The parties would have to transform themselves… there are honest people in both the small and the large parties who are ready to offer an alternative governance that is clean and transparent,” Farrugia said.

Green party chairperson Arnold Cassola said Busuttil's statements confirmed that the PN has been in the pockets of developers "for such a long time but that there must be also loads of dirty deals going on with Joseph Muscat's PL in order to get priority and privileged access to the ITS site in St. George's Bay. What a dirty mess."

Earlier

Expressing ‘shock’, Busuttil said the text message he had recieved was tantamount to a “threat”.

“This is a threat. The group demanded that PN pays back the donations it received from the group after it criticised the project. Had the developers donated money in order to bribe it, or to buy its silence?” Busuttil asked.

Questioning why the group had demanded that the PN pays back its donations, Busuttil questioned how much money had they donated to the Labour Party in exchange for the ITS site.

On Sunday, Busuttil announced that the Opposition would be referring the contract entered into between the db Group and the government for the transfer of the ITS site in St George’s Bay to the Auditor General to be investigated. The announcment was welcomed by the db Group (formerly Seabank Group) who in a statement, said that "no one in this country is more eager for the truth to win out on this matter than our Group."

The DB Group (formerly Seabank Group) is the group behind the devlopment of the mega project at St George’s Bay. The development will see the land currently occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies develop into a Hard Rock Hotel and luxury property believed to encompass a €300 million investment.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
danielmizzi
Daniel Mizzi reports from the law courts.