Cassola slams corruption inquiry into Mrieħel project

Independent politician Arnold Cassola releases two WhatsApp messages between Yorgen Fenech and Fredrick Azzopardi talking about the Mrieħel junction project

Independent politician Arnold Cassola
Independent politician Arnold Cassola

Updated at 11:53am with Fredrick Azzopardi right of reply

Independent politician Arnold Cassola questioned the outcome of a corruption inquiry that cleared former prime minister Joseph Muscat of trading in influence over gifts received by Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech.

Cassola quested why the Permanent Commission Against Corruption thought it normal for parliamentary secretary Michael Farrugia to send orders to the Planning Authority to include Mrieħel amongst the designated highrise areas shortly after meeting Yorgen Fenech at Castille.

“The Permanent Commission against Corruption also found it natural and normal that Yorgen Fenech communicated in secret whatsapp messages with Joseph Muscat's acquired cousin, Fredrick Azzopardi of Infrastructure Malta,  to enquire about a junction at Mrieħel... a year before Infrastructure Malta applied for it and two years before the junction was approved by the Planning Authority.”

The WhatsApp chats published by Arnold Cassola
The WhatsApp chats published by Arnold Cassola
The WhatsApp chats published by Arnold Cassola
The WhatsApp chats published by Arnold Cassola

Cassola also published two WhatsApp messages between Fenech and Azzopardi, showing them discussing Mrieħel.

It was Cassola who filed a complaint with the commission into Fenech’s close relationship with top officials, including Muscat, in influencing a high-rise planning policy to the benefit of the Tumas Quad Towers project in Mrieħel.

Cassola’s complaint cited reports that Fenech had gifted Muscat expensive watches and bottles of Petrus wine, and asked the commission to see whether those gifts and relationships influenced policy decisions.

Muscat celebrated the commission’s decision, arguing that “had the Commission’s decision been otherwise, it would have provoked a louder reaction, much as is being fomented against me in a magisterial inquiry – in which I have no faith”.

In the decision by the commission, chaired by judge emeritus Lawrence Quintano, together with judge emeritus Philip Magri and former police commissioner John Rizzo, the commission said it could not find any element for the crime of trading in influence against Muscat.

“From what the Commission has heard, it does not result that either the watch or the wine gifts were intended for some economic advantage... indeed it seems the consortium lost money in the changes of policy at Mrieħel,” the commission said.

The anti-corruption inquiry absolved former junior minister Michael Farrugia over a meeting with Fenech, almost four years after it was asked to investigate the matter. The Permanent Commission Against Corruption said it was “satisfied” that the two had discussed Portomaso during a 2014 meeting, and not plans to allow high-rise developments in Mrieħel.

Fredrick Azzopardi right of reply

"The allegation that I discussed the Mriehel Underpass Project with third parties before it was publicly announced is a malicious lie. In fact, plans for the upgrading of the junction with a new underpass was public knowledge as far back as 2016, when permits for other projects in this area were determined. The upgrading of this junction with a new underpass was established through studies that were publicly available, presented to the Planning Authority and Transport Malta and reported in local media three years before the indicated text messages were sent."