Gaffarena testifies on Busuttil meeting, says PN was only interested in Daewoo papers

Marco Gaffarena tells court about a 2013 meeting between him and his father and Simon Busuttil over their illegal petrol station

Marco Gaffarena testified on a pre-electoral meeting with Simon Busuttil
Marco Gaffarena testified on a pre-electoral meeting with Simon Busuttil

Marco Gaffarena has insisted under oath that he was present during a meeting his father allegedly had with the opposition PN leader Simon Busuttil before the 2013 elections.

Gaffarena was testifying during two libel suits filed by the Opposition Leader against GWU- owned newspapers l-Orizzont and it-Torca, which had alleged that Busuttil had met the Gaffarenas in the hope of obtaining papers damaging to former minister John Dalli in return for a permit to operate their petrol station in Qormi.

In the early 1990s, Joe Gaffarena was involved in a controversy over the location of the  Daewoo car showroom in Mdina Road, Qormi which was originally built without a planning permit, as was its car storage at Hal Farrug.

On the same premises, Gaffarena also had another business, Mixer Ltd, again without the necessary permits. The company was later sold to Bastjan Dalli, brother of former Nationalist minister John Dalli.

In today's sitting, before magistrate Francesco Depasquale, Marco Gaffarena was asked to elaborate on an affidavit from August 2015 which had been drawn up with the assistance of his lawyer Keith Bonnici.

The businessman told the court that his father had received a call from former minister Joseph Cassar to attend a meeting with Simon Busuttil so as to discuss the petrol station issue. When he had accompanied his father to the PN's Pieta headquarters, Marco Gaffarena said he recalled being met by Cassar who had inquired as to whether they had brought the Daewoo papers.

When the father and son had replied that they had gone to discuss the petrol station issue, not the Daewoo issue, he claimed Busuttil to have declared that "if they wanted to operate their petrol station, they knew what they had to do," stopping the discussion in its tracks, he said.

Under cross-examination, Gaffarena was asked to confirm the exact location where the meeting at the PN headquarters had taken place. He replied that it had been held inside a particular office on the second floor. Lawyer Peter Fenech, who is appearing for Busuttil, pointed out that the room he had identified was not Busuttil's office.

He went on to highlight that the affidavit stated that Busuttil had left the table when the meeting had ended, but that Gaffarena had today said that the parties had been sitting on two sofas, around a coffee table.

Gaffarena denied that his father had asked Cassar to block the publication of further details regarding the Old Mint Street expropriation.

The only time he had met Cassar was when he had delivered meat products, a car or whatever else the former minister would request, he said.

"We received requests for sums of money, €10,000 at a time," Gaffarena remarked angrily.

"But you never got your permit," quipped Fenech.

Lawyers Yana Micallef Stafrace and Andrew Sciberras, appearing for the defendants, objected to questions asking about other Labour Party representatives who had approached them for donations before the 2013 elections, as this issue was not mentioned in the affidavit which they were testifying about.

The case continues.