Busuttil demands explanation into ‘obscene’ Michael Falzon retirement package

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil accuses government of double standards over its handling of Gaffarena business links and controversial Old Mint Street expropriation

PN leader Simon Busuttil has insisted that Michael Falzon’s €260,000 early retirement package from Bank of Valletta was “obscene,” and that it was only because that he would have to return the money that he did not want to resign.

Ministerial declaration of assets tabled in parliament this week revealed that parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon – who in recent weeks have been under pressure over having rubber-stamped a controversial €1.65 million Gaffarena expropriation – was paid a handsome early retirement package of €260,000 by Bank of Valletta.

Describing the retirement deal as “obscene,” Busuttil explained that if Falzon were to return to the bank, he would be forced to return the sum, and that this is why Falzon is refusing to resign over the Gaffarena expropriation scandal.

Consequently, he said, shareholders need to be given a decent explanation on the deal.

Busuttil also took the prime minister to task over his reluctance to suspend the parliamentary secretary, arguing this contradicts the suspension of two public officials who allegedly passed on sensitive information to Tonio Fenech.

The Opposition leader also explained that if he were prime minister he would “immediately order a proper independent inquiry” into the links between the Gaffarena family and the family of former acting police commissioner Ray Zammit.

“The fact there is a business link between Gaffarena and the Zammit family is scandalous to say the least. What is more alarming is that the whole situation undermines the people’s confidence in the police force. If the public cannot trust the police, who else can they trust?” he argued.

Busuttil insisted that if this were to happen under his watch, he would have immediately stopped Ray Zammit and his sons from holding any public posts.

“Following the incident involving Manuel Mallia’s driver, Ray Zammit should have not been given any public appointments, Instead, the government appointed him as a director of prisons and head of the new agency on the warden service, and only chosen to suspend employees for allegedly being spies,” Busuttil said while referring to Tonio Fenech’s ‘spy network’.

The PN leader also insisted that he would have immediately demanded Michael Falzon’s resignation because of his affinity with Joe Gaffarena. Busuttil insisted that despite the government’s best efforts to keep everything under wraps, scandals were being uncovered on a daily basis.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hollywood would make a feat out of the chain of scandals that have hit this government … Each day people wake up to a new scandal, people are angry and disgusted,” he said.

Busuttil also argued that in light of the recent scandals, it is “of no surprise” that the government is reluctant to publish its agreements with Electrogas and Shanghai Electric amongst others.

The PN leader also said that it has become a race to the bottom with the people having to pay the price of corruption. “Wealth is being distributed among the few, while the people close to the Labour party reaped in million at the expense of the taxpayer.”

“This is the type of politics I want to clean, the PN has a duty to restore the people’s confidence in politics,” he said. The PN leader also that a Nationalist government would implement an effective ministerial code of ethics which amongst others would introduce a mechanism to scrutinise ministers’ declaration of assets.