Azzopardi solicited Tel Aviv hotel ‘help’ when PN faced flak over cash-for-salaries ‘donations’

PN MP Jason Azzopardi benefitted from Hilton freebie in March 2017 when his party was under fire for soliciting money from the DB Group to pay the salaries of its top officials

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi
Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi

Updated at 4:31pm with Jason Azzopardi reaction

Jason Azzopardi’s Tel Aviv Hilton jaunt paid by the Tumas Group happened when the Nationalist Party faced flak over money it solicited from another major business group.

It transpires that Azzopardi had been invited for the wedding of the daughter of a Tel Aviv rabbi in March 2017, according to his estranged wife Marica Azzopardi Balzan. It was previously erroneously reported that the Israel visit happened in July 2017.

The Facebook post of Jason Azzopardi's estranged wife Marica Azzopardi Balzan
The Facebook post of Jason Azzopardi's estranged wife Marica Azzopardi Balzan

The PN MP had told his then wife that he was going to the wedding alone and later spend some time in Jerusalem reflecting on Christ’s tomb.

Azzopardi appears to have lied to his wife and eventually travelled to Tel Aviv with his partner and somebody else, Azzopardi Balzan said in a Facebook post on Monday.

The PN MP has admitted to having contacted Tumas Group director Ray Fenech to help him find a hotel in Tel Aviv. Fenech is the uncle of Yorgen Fenech, the man charged with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

READ ALSO: Jason Azzopardi admits that Tel Aviv hotel stay was paid for by Tumas Group

The Tumas Group owns the Hilton franchise in Malta and Azzopardi was booked a room at the same hotel in the Israeli seaside city.

The hotel stay was fully paid by the Tumas Group, a fact the PN MP has admitted to, and which he tried to redeem himself by buying Fenech a silverware gift as a token of appreciation on his return to Malta.

Azzopardi has denied any wrongdoing.

Critical timing

But the timing of Azzopardi’s freebie in Israel could not have come at a more critical juncture for his party.

In March 2017, the PN was being pilloried over money it had solicited from the DB Group to finance the wages of its secretary general and CEO.

Controversy raged after government concluded negotiations with the DB Group for the transfer of the ITS campus in St George’s Bay for the construction of a high-rise residential tower block, a hotel and commercial outlets.

The multi-million-euro deal was heavily criticised by then PN leader Simon Busuttil, who had also forced his deputy, Mario de Marco, to give up the legal brief he had with the DB Group.

The criticism backfired when the DB Group revealed that it had been financing salaries of top PN officials. It had been the cash-strapped PN that solicited the payments from the DB Group and the ‘donations’ were masked as adverts and other services given to the party’s media company.

Busuttil had been aware of this arrangement that started before his time.

While any connection between Yorgen Fenech and 17 Black in March 2017 was unknown, it seems Azzopardi found no difficulty in soliciting ‘help’ from a businessman for a personal holiday to Israel.

And all this happened at a time when his party faced flak over its incestuous relationship with the DB Group and his deputy leader was forced to give up his legal brief because of a conflict of interest.

Jason Azzopardi reaction

The PN MP said in a reaction later on Monday that he will not comment publicly on his "former, private life", adding only that when the Israel trip happened his "marriage was already, long dead".

I am being told of certain post/s written today concerning my former, private life. I had promised myself in 2017 that I...

Posted by Jason Azzopardi on Monday, 9 November 2020

"I had promised myself in 2017 that I will never stoop low and comment publicly on what was written and the inverted reality conjured erroneously. A reality which brought hidden, silent pain. I will keep that promise and will not reply or correct. Even at the cost of continued character assassination. I remained silent in 2017 and will do so now... My private life has little relevance to my public life unless it was criminal or contrary to my professional duties," Azzopardi said.

He insisted their was nothing in his private life that was criminal or went against his professional duties.