MPs discussing Petrus gift to Muscat should declare Fenech relationship, Cassola says

MPs discussing Petrus gift ethics complaint should delcare past relationships with Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, independent candidate says

Party time: Muscat lets his hair down at a private bash he held at Girgenti
Party time: Muscat lets his hair down at a private bash he held at Girgenti

A parliamentary committee will today discuss a report by the Commissioner for Standards into Public Life, dealing with the gift of bottles of Petrus wine to the former prime minister Joseph Muscat by Yorgen Fenech. 

The complaint was filed by the independent candidate Arnold Cassola after it emerged that the alleged mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, had gifted the wine bottles to Muscat on his birthday. 

Although the investigation has been concluded, the report has not been published by commissioner Goerge Hyzler, and instead will be discussed in the committee of MPs at 2pm. 

The committee will be led by Speaker Anglu Farrugia and includes justice minster Edward Zammit Lewis, home affairs minister Byron Camilleri, and Nationalist MPs Karol Aquilina and Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. 

“Despite being the person who asked for the investigation, I have been left in the dark regarding the outcome of such investigation,” Cassola said. “This fact alone leads me to believe that the report contains very important considerations on the conduct of politics in our country.” 

Cassola said it was no joke that the country faced a scenario in which a sitting PM socialised with and was in SMS communication with Yorgen Fenech, the owner of the Dubai offshore company 17 Black, identified as a target client of secret Panama companies opened by Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri and a childhood friend of Schembri. 

“Five men have today the responsibility of deciding whether the necessary clean-up of our rotten political system, based on the incestuous relationship between dirty business interests and dirty politicians, is set in motion, or actually reinforced. It is a serious responsibility that will decide the future moral, or immoral, compass of our country.” 

Cassola also added that the five MPs should declare whether they have any conflict of interest by having had some form of relationship at all with the Tumas magnate, as from the moment he was outed as the owner of 17 Black in November 2018.

Yorgen Fenech was one of Joseph Muscat’s guests at a party held at the Prime Minister’s Girgenti residence last February, The Times had reported, where he gifted him fine wine worth thousands of euros.

The February party at Girgenti Palace made headlines after a video was leaked on WhatsApp showing Muscat and his wife Michelle leading guests in chanting an old Labour Party anthem.

The Times said Fenech gifted the prime minister three bottles of the premier Bordeaux red wine, Pétrus; one of the bottles was a 1974 vintage, the prime minister’s birth year, while the other two bottles – both 2007 vintages – mark the year Muscat’s twin daughters were born. The three bottles could cost around €5,800 if purchased online.

A spokesperson for the OPM had said that the Malta Security Services had told the PM that the Fenechs should not be excluded from the list of invitees for the Prime Minister’s birthday party, “for which the couple attended briefly.”

Muscat knew that Fenech was a suspect in the Caruana Galizia case since at least May 2018, when he signed a warrant allowing the Malta Security Service to tap the businessman’s phone.