Speaker wants additional investigation into Rosianne Cutajar’s ethics breach

Government MPs are caught on the back foot as Speaker votes against adoption of Rosianne Cutajar ethics breach report but calls for investigation to continue • Opposition wants to summon Cutajar's aide

Speaker Anglu Farrugia
Speaker Anglu Farrugia

Rosianne Cutajar’s ethics breach took a clamorous twist on Tuesday after Speaker Anglu Farrugia recommended that parliament’s Standards Committee further the investigation.

The Speaker’s decision caught government MPs Edward Zammit Lewis and Glenn Bedingfield on the back foot after the Opposition members agreed with the renewed investigation.

This means that the committee will be able to summon witnesses and further the investigation carried out by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler.

Cutajar, a Labour MP, was found to have breached ethics when she did not declare brokerage fees from a property deal involving murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

The Speaker voted against a motion put forward by the PN MPs to adopt Hyzler’s report after a tie but recommended the committee continue its investigation.

The Speaker proposed that all documents are sent to the Tax Commissioner and he appear in front of the committee to answer questions by the MPs.

Aquilina and Comodini Cachia agreed but insisted that at the first opportunity that Cutajar’s political aide, Charles Farrugia, known as it-Tikka, should also be summoned to testify.

Government MPs opposed Farrugia’s testimony, insisting that they wanted to hear the Tax Commissioner with Bedingfield adding that they did not need to hear other witnesses.

The stormy afternoon meeting was suspended by the Speaker after the MPs could not agree on who should be summoned. It remains unclear whether the committee will be meeting again on Monday at 4pm, as was being discussed, before the Speaker walked out of the meeting. 

Earlier, Zammit Lewis and Bedingfield voted against adopting the report, insisting that they wanted to have more information from the Tax Commissioner over a declaration made over the weekend by Charles Farrugia.

Farrugia declares paying taxes

Charles Farrugia communicated with the Speaker over the weekend to say that he will be amending his income tax returns to declare the full brokerage fee from the property sale, although he insisted the money was an ex gratia payment.

On Tuesday afternoon, Charles Farrugia sent the Speaker an amended income tax return to show that he paid taxes on €120,000 of income.

During the morning sitting, the Speaker did suggest that more investigation was required before finding an MP guilty on prima facie evidence. 

The case involves the sale of an Mdina palazzo by Joseph Camilleri, a property negotiator, to businessman Yorgen Fenech.

The accusation is that Charles Farrugia and Rosianne Cutajar acted as middlemen in the deal and were paid a brokerage fee in cash by Camilleri and Fenech.

Cutajar has denied involvement in the deal and insists she never received a brokerage fee. She did, however, admit receiving €9,000 in cash from Fenech as a birthday gift.

Hyzler’s report was published last week. He made submissions in front of the parliamentary committee yesterday and today.

During this morning’s sitting, Hyzler insisted that all the evidence at hand pointed to the fact that despite her denials, Cutajar did receive a brokerage fee from the property deal.

Hyzler insisted that Cutajar’s political aide, Farrugia, always talked in the plural in his exchanges with Camilleri and remained very close to the Labour MP despite her claims that he may have used her name to get more money from the deal.

The Standards Commissioner found that Cutajar breached ethics when she failed to declare the brokerage fee in her parliamentary declaration.

During submissions, Aquilina insisted that Charles Farrugia’s admission that he will adjust his income tax returns to reflect the brokerage fee makes things worse for Cutajar.

“First of all, it puts into question the original claim made that the money paid was not a brokerage fee but it makes it worse because her subaltern is ready to make a false declaration after the investigation has been concluded,” Aquilina said.

The Labour MPs on the committee insisted they needed more information before reaching any conclusion on the report.

Bedingfield insisted that if Charles Farrugia declares that he received all the brokerage fee from the deal, it would mean that Cutajar received none and so was relevant to the matter at hand.

Earlier, Hyzler said that it was not up to him to investigate who and whether any tax was paid on the property deal since that was the competence of the tax authorities.

Hyzler did indicate in the report that his findings should be passed on to the tax authorities for further investigation of the property deal.

It has been reported that the Tax Compliance Unit had initiated an investigation earlier this year after news broke out of the property deal.

Karol Aquilina slams Speaker for walking out of committee meeting  

Speaking in the House, the PN MP Karol Aquilina slammed the speaker for walking out of the committee meeting.

“The speaker abandoned the meeting and disrespected his role,” Aquilina said.

He said the Speaker should not have acted in such a way.

Following the incident, Opposition whip Robert Cutajar called for a quorum.

The parliamentary sitting has been suspended.

Repubblika reacts

Reacting, Civil society NGO Repubblika said parliament is being used as an “instrument of impunity” thanks to the Speaker.

“Parliament is being used to wash away MP Rosianne Cutajar’s improper actions,” it said. “Parliament is continuing to drown in its own silting.”

“What does Rosianne Cutajar know that the Maltese shouldn’t?” it asked.