PM summons Rosianne Cutajar as Hyzler calls for tax investigation

MP’s Cabinet chances wiped out after Robert Abela summons Cutajar to Castille, PN sharpen their knives

Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar

The Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar will not be returned to the Cabinet of ministers, after a parliamentary standards investigation found irregularities with her role as a broker in a property sale for Yorgen Fenech, the Tumas magnate accused of masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Cutajar, who resigned as parliamentary secretary after MaltaToday broke the story of her role in the Mdina property sale, was informed by Prime Minister Robert Abela of his decision at a meeting at Castille.

In a report of over 200 pages, one of the longest ever penned by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, George Hyzler found overwhelming evidence of a breach of ethics by Cutajar.

The report has been delivered to the Speaker of the House, who will convene a meeting of the parliamentary committee tomorrow Monday. Hyzler’s report is said to include a recommendation that his report be forwarded to the Commissioner for Revenue for an investigation on alleged tax evasion.

Abela is expected to come under pressure by Nationalist MPs to exclude Cutajar from his parliamentary group, this newspaper has learnt.

MaltaToday is informed that Hyzler also filed an application to Magistrate Rachel Montebello, the magistrate presiding the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, to obtain access to mobile phone chats between Fenech and Cutajar. The request was refused. Hyzler then obtained a copy of the chats after requesting them from Cutajar herself, who obtained them from the Executive Police under a right of disclosure request.

The ethics breach investigation was triggered by a MaltaToday story that could have ramifications over the MP and allegations of tax evasion, apart from her problematic proximity to Yorgen Fenech, a magnate whose secret Dubai company 17 Black is connected to secret Panama companies belonging to Keith Schembri, the former OPM chief of staff, and Konrad Mizzi, the former energy minister.

Cutajar and her aide, Charlie Farrugia ‘it-Tikka’, were alleged to have received some €100,000 in brokers’ fees for the sale of a €3.1 million Mdina property to Yorgen Fenech.

The property transaction was officially carried out with a fiduciary company, but the property sale was never finalised with a contract with Fenech himself.

A promise-of-sale was made out in May 2019 with Pierre Lofaro, appearing on behalf of the company Green Eyes Limited. Green Eyes is owned by two fiduciary companies run by Lofaro, but its ultimate beneficial owner is the Mdina property owner, Joe Camilleri. Lofaro is the husband of Judge Abigail Lofaro.

Yorgen Fenech had visited the property together with Rosianne Cutajar, who was already an MP, and her friend, Charlie Farrugia. Farrugia later became Cutajar’s political aide after she was appointed a junior minister in February 2020.

Their viewings of the Triq is-Salvatur house are a crucial fact, because Cutajar and Farrugia are said to have claimed for themselves a finder’s fee of €50,000 each. That allegation is stated in correspondence between Lofaro and a lawyer for Cutajar, in a contestation over the €100,000 brokerage fee (senserija).

When the promise-of-sale was signed between Yorgen Fenech and Lofaro in May 2019 at Portomaso, the Tumas magnate tendered €300,000 as a cash deposit to the vendor himself – rather than being held in escrow by a notary, as is customary. Farrugia was present, but not Cutajar.

But the owner of the property accepted to have €100,000 of that deposit paid to both Cutajar and Farrugia by way of a broker’s fee.

The contract was due to be signed in September 2019, but was extended in four instances over the course of October and November. By the time Fenech was arrested on 20 November 2019, the property contract was never signed. But the property owner ended up chasing Cutajar and Farrugia for the €100,000 that had been paid early on in cash for their ‘brokerage’.

The matter was subsequently taken up by Lofaro, as representative of Camilleri’s property, and Cutajar’s lawyer, Edward Gatt.

MaltaToday sought comment from Cutajar, which asked her to explain the request for the €50,000 broker’s fee to be returned to Camilleri.

Rosianne Cutajar was twice-elected mayor of Qormi; in 2012, Charles Farrugia was elected as an Qormi local councillor.