Rosianne Cutajar called to answer for conflict of interest in PACE inquiry

The PACE inquiry is investigating the alleged confict of interest Rosianne Cutajar had when voting on the Omtzigt report on rule of law in Malta

Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar

The Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar has been invited to be heard before the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly’s committee on rule of procedures and immunities, for a second time.

Cutajar is accused of a breach of the PACE code of conduct for MPs, over her dealings with Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech in her role as a broker for the purchase of an Mdina property valued at €3.1 million.

The PACE is an assembly of national parliaments’ MPs from all member states of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (not the European Parliament in Brussels).

Cutajar had not responded to the committee’s invitation to be heard. The committee has now invited her for a second and last time to be heard at a next meeting at the end of September.

Cutajar has however sent a letter to the committee, the contents of which are as yet unknown. The committee said that it had taken note of the latter, noted that she had not responded to the invitation to be heard, and was inviting her for a second hearing.

The Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, a rapporteur PACE on rule of law in Malta, requested the inquiry into Cutajar over statements she made in defence of Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech inside the assembly.

The complaint comes on the back of reports in MaltaToday and the Times that Cutajar had been promised a brokerage fee from the sale of an Mdina palazzo to Fenech, the man accused of having masterminded the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The inquiry is as to whether Cutajar had a conflict of interest when signing amendments and speaking against the Omtzigt report in plenary, as well as to ask Cutajar to file her declarations of interest over the past three years.

“Cutajar has not filed a single declaration of interest in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by 15 April 2021. Neither did she make any oral statement drawing attention to her links with Mr Fenech. Under paragraph 7, 8 and 9 of the rules of conduct in the code of the conducts she should have made such a declaration in the case of a potential or actual conflict of interest or even better, she should have tried to resolve this conflict of interest before the debate,” Omtzigt said.

Cutajar has denied receiving money for her role as the broker in the sale of an Mdina home to Yorgen Fenech. But an investigation by the commissioner for the standards of public life is ongoing. She has since resigned her position as parliamentary secretary.

The promise-of-sale agreement was signed on 14 May 2019. The vendor, Joseph Camilleri, paid some €44,500 in fees to Cutajar and associate Chalres Farrugia, who she later appointed to her private secretariat. When the deal fell through, Camilleri demanded the money back.

Omtzigt has pointed out that later in June 2019, during the debate about his report “Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond: ensuring that the whole truth emerges”, Cutajar made a powerful speech against his report and tabled a number of amendments trying to weaken the report.

Among other things she explicitly stated: “For example, paragraph 3 of the draft resolution makes conclusions and criticisms about eight different cases. None of these eight cases are the Galizia case.”

Caruana Galizia had written extensively on the Electrogas Affair, the Panama Papers and on 17 Black – all having a deep connection to Fenech, a shareholder in Electrogas whose secret Dubai company 17 Black is suspected of having been designed to channel funds to the secret Panama companies owned by former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The Mdina promise-of-sale was made out in May 2019 with Pierre Lofaro, who appears 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.

Yorgen Fenech had already visited the property together with Rosianne Cutajar, who was then an MP, and her close friend Charlie Farrugia ‘it-Tikka’, who 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. according to correspondence between Lofaro and a lawyer for Cutajar, in a contestation over the brokerage fee.