Jason Azzopardi resigns from PN in open war with Grech over ‘pardon donation’

Former Nationalist MP claims Bernard Grech was promised donation by relatives of Yorgen Fenech to support a presidential pardon bid

Former Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi
Former Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi

The former Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has resigned from the Nationalist Party and said PN leader Bernard Grech met relatives of Yorgen Fenech in a business lunch with donors that took place in December 2021.

Azzopardi, on the warpath against Grech after accusing the party of not supporting his re-election bid, had already posted a declaration on Facebook earlier this week suggesting Grech was approached to support a presidential pardon.

MaltaToday is informed Azzopard is referring to Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Azzopardi is a lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family.

After the allegation, Grech said Azzopardi would have to substantiate his allegations in the PN. But the former MP has decided not to stay on as a PN member to face an internal inquiry, and instead posted his allegations to Facebook.

‘Blue Hero’ to ‘expired politician’: Jason Azzopardi’s troubled relationship with PN leaders

Incensed ay Grech’s suggestion last week that his political career had ‘expired’, Azzopardi hit back by claiming the PN leader was solicited by Fenech’s relatives to support the accused’s bid for a pardon, at a lunch with other businesspeople to solicit financial aid for the PN.

Azzopardi today said Grech met the six businesspeople during a December 2021 lunch, among them “two male businessmen, relatives of a person being tried criminally in connection with an assassination”.

MaltaToday is informed the businessmen were cousins of Yorgen Fenech, who are no longer part of the Tumas business group which Fenech was the CEO of.

“This fact alone was confirmed yesterday afternoon during a PN administrative council meeting in which the PN leader himself was asked about it,” Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi alleged that at this December meeting, Grech was also given a monetary donation for the PN’s fundraising telethon – but he failed to specify who gave the donation.

“I am informed that before the start of this meal, the PN leader was taking to the side by these two relatives on the subject of a pardon for the accused. I am informed that the PN leader gave his assurance that if he had to be prime minister, he would be ready to recommend the award of a pardon in this case,” Azzopardi declared.

The former MP also claimed that another ‘appliances’ businessman present for the meeting “whose name starts with O” told Grech he would never vote for the PN as long as Azzopardi was an MP. He claimed Grech replied by saying: “Speak to me after the election,” implying that the PN would not put its efforts behind Azzopardi’s re-election in the 2022 election.

Azzopardi insisted he knew this information from three different sources with direct access to the dinner party guests and Fenech’s cousins.

Grech has previously said he would not rule out granting Fenech a pardon if other avenues towards getting to the bottom of the case are exhausted. 

“I do not agree with this,” Azzopardi said today on Facebook, “and I expressed myself as much about this. To me this is unacceptable behaviour. All politicians must be careful about not appearing to be compromising with mafiosi. Criminals’ only audiences should be the courts, not the parties.”

“Even worse, it gives the impression that the parties’ need to collect money from those who can afford it the most also gives rich criminals preferential access. Only the PN leader knows whether his decision to publicly argue for a pardon for this individual was the result of donations, or whether the two events are unconnected.”

Azzopardi said he had internally criticized both Grech’s declaration on the pardon as well as well as the assurance to Fenech’s cousins. “They confirm the politician’s vulnerability to the insidiousness of criminals.”

Azzopardi said his public declaration had come about after Grech implied that he had been an “expired” politician.

“It’s clear that the PN did not want to leave any space to those who are uncompromising in creating distance between politicians and those who want to buy privileges to be above the law,” Azzopardi said.

“Grech has turned me into a political orphan… in this manner, I will not be subject to a spurious jury inside the PN. I have taken a decision I have never expected to take since becoming a PN member at 17 years of age.”