Greens call for investigation into suspicious EU funds allocation

ADPD Chairperson Sandra Gauci referred to reports that Agriculture Minister wife's company and former Labour MEP children's company both benefitted from hundreds of thousands of Euro in EU funds

ADPD Secretary General Ralph Cassar and Chairperson Sandra Gauci (Photo: ADPD)
ADPD Secretary General Ralph Cassar and Chairperson Sandra Gauci (Photo: ADPD)

ADPD The Green Party Chairperson and EP candidate Sandra Gauci has called for an investigation into the allocation of European funds that raised suspicions on whether they were granted or merit or due to political influence.

During a press conference on Saturday morning in Sliema, Gauci said that it was not only essential to utilise taxpayers’ money judiciously but also EU funds.

“This is especially so in the current crisis when many are finding it difficult to cope with cost of living in the face of the energy crisis impacting an entire continent. In these circumstances, cases of suspected abuse are much less tolerated,” Gauci said.

She argued that the reports of two serious cases of suspected abuse of EU funds show that profiting without merit in Malta has become institutionalized and accepted as if it were the norm. “Favours and nepotism have become a leadership style.”

She added that the involvement of Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo in the allocation of EU funds for his personal project raises serious concerns about the integrity and responsibility of the government.

Gauci emphasised that the revelation that around €270,000 in European funds were given to a company owned by the minister's wife, Michelina Refalo, for the development of a "yoga-meditation" hotel calls for a careful investigation into this matter.

“The most disturbing aspect of this revelation is the apparent conflict of interest. Despite not being directly associated with the application or the company receiving the funds, Minister Refalo's connection to the property is undeniable, as it is listed in his asset declaration. This raises legitimate questions about whether the funds were awarded on merit or as a result of political influence,” Gauci said.

Gauci also referred to the media story that a company owned by the three children of former MEP Louis Grech was given €450,000 in aid from European funds.

She said that these funds were applied when Grech was still an MEP and was finalised in 2017.

“We as ADPD are concerned about all this and we ask that a serious investigation be carried out on how these funds were given, and whether there was abuse in the allocation as well as whether insiders and family members were unfairly rewarded. These reasonable suspicions clearly show how far we are still from a country run on merit where everyone has an equal chance depending on their abilities,” Gauci concluded.

ADPD Secretary General and EP candidate Ralph Cassar said that when Malta joined the European Union many were looking forward for the country to move forward with merit-based decisions and the granting of more civil rights, as well as access to funds for the country to continue developing.

Cassar argued that while with a lot of hard work, including a referendum and battles of civil society, some of the civil rights were acquired, Maltese have become experts in how to acquire funds even when these are the result of a conflict of interest and abuse.

He referred to the 14 fraud cases the European Public Prosecutor's Office opened against Malta over EU funds estimated to total more than €123.5 million.

“This does not bode well for Malta's reputation, especially since we have not been off the FATF grey list long. But apparently, we still have a long way to go,” Cassar said.

He said that the Labour Party was elected to power after 25 years of PN with the slogan of "You can work with us" and with the pledge that they would remove or reduce the trade-for-favours mentality.

Cassar stated, however, that the slogan was nothing but a smokescreen and empty words aimed to seize power at all costs; “power that now, after more than 10 years, is clouding its judgment and an attitude that it is above every law and authority.”