Joe Gaffarena: Cassar wanted ‘Dalli papers’ when I met Busuttil

The Qormi businessman says he gave the PN €20,000 three months before his petrol pump station was closed down by the Planning Authoruty

File photo: Joe Cassar and Simon Busuttil
File photo: Joe Cassar and Simon Busuttil

The businessman Joe Gaffarena – whose son was implicated in the Gaffarena scandal in 2015 – told a court today that Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had wanted his assistance to “attack” former Nationalist minister and EU Commissioner John Dalli.

Taking the witness stand in a libel case Busuttil filed against l-Orizzont editor Josef Caruana, Gaffarena spoke of his bitter disappointment at the party he supported for 35 years, which he says shunned him.

Gaffarena’s fiery testimony was punctuated by gesticulations and the occasional wry chuckle as he did his best to give up as little as possible to questions asked by the PN leader’s lawyer Peter Fenech.

He said that at a meeting he and his son Marco, had with Busuttil, the PN leader had told him: ‘Didn’t you get the paper?’. “I thought he was talking about my BUPA papers, but he said ‘the John Dalli papers’.”

Under cross-examination, Gaffarena – who is illiterate – was asked whether an affidavit he gave to the newspaper had been written in front of him. “In front of me,” he replied. He said his son Marco had been in the room with him.

Fenech suggested that the conversation Busuttil had with Gaffarena was strictly related to the petrol station for which a MEPA enforcement order had left the business shuttered for years, and that John Dalli was never mentioned.

Marco Gaffarena
Marco Gaffarena

Cassar [Joe – the former Nationalist MP] mentioned Dalli,” he replied.

“I was a Nationalist for 35 years. I would have died for them [the PN]. All those thousands of liri for nothing… Why pick on my family?” Gaffarena said, jabbing his finger angrily. “Doesn’t he have a family? Hasn’t he made mistakes?”

When the court asked him why the PN had asked him for money, Gaffarena replied: “For the party. Fenech Adami was honest. But then in the times of Gonzi and Busuttil, it changed.”

He said that three months before MEPA carried out the enforcement action over an illegally-built extra storey at the petrol station, he had given the party €20,000. “Lawrence Gonzi and Joe Saliba were a witness to this.” 

Gaffarena claimed that PN leader Simon Busuttil, during the meeting about the enforcement action, had told him to abide by environmental and planning regulations. The witness said he had stormed out of the meeting, saying "Naf x'ghandi naghmel," (I know what I need to do.)

‘Dalli papers’

Gaffarena said the papers Busuttil had been expecting may have been intended to be used against John Dalli. “Not the petrol pump permit papers... the ones about John Dalli. I don’t know, maybe he wanted to attack him – Dalli was my worst enemy at the time... if he didn’t do anything with me or Daewoo, how can I have papers for it?”

“So Joe Cassar is lying?” Peter Fenech asked.

Gaffarena replied that it was Cassar who had mentioned Dalli to him. “When I met them they asked me ‘'where are the Dalli papers?'… Cassar mentioned him.”

Petrol pump permit

Asked whether he had been expecting an illegal permit for his J.Gaff Petrol Station in Qormi, he said this was no different to what others had received. “Labour did not give me the permit for nothing. I placed a €500,000 guarantee on the property because it was not covered by a permit. The illegal part of the property is sealed to this day.”

He said he had never met the prime minister, and that he had filed an application with the planning authority for the permit.

“So are you saying the permit was issued without speaking to anyone?” Fenech, seemingly incredulous, asked. “MEPA asked for the guarantee, through my architect. They kicked me out of their offices.”

The case continues in April. Lawyer Yana Micallef Stafrace was defence counsel to Caruana. Magistrate Francesco Depasquale presided.

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