Opposition seeks answers over BOV’s ‘unsecured loans' to Air Malta

Tourism Minister refuses to answer reports on unsecured loans granted to Air Malta as they pertain to 'baning secrecy', accuses Opposition MP of 'irresponsibility' 

Opposition MPs questioned Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis in Parliament over media reports that Bank of Valletta issued millions of euro in unsecured loans to Air Malta to make good for the national airline’s losses in fuel hedging agreement.

The Malta Independent reported on Sunday that Air Malta had encountered severe problems with a fuel-hedging agreement after the global price of oil collapsed by some 50% over the past year.

Opposition MP Antoine Borg asked Zammit Lewis to clarify this report and questioned whether this was common bank practice. However, as the supplementary question was unrelated to the original PQ pertaining to the employment of a person, the Tourism Minister chose not to answer.

“In the previous administration, [former finance minister] Tonio Fenech hadn’t even answered parliamentary questions on uniforms at Air Malta, let alone on issues of bank secrecy between the airline and BOV,” he said, accusing the Opposition of “riding the waves of a front page report that has harmed Air Malta and BOV employees”.

Here, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil stepped in, claiming that this is an issue of national interest and challenging Zammit Lewis as to why BOV gave this “guarantee” to Air Malta.

“The minister can simply answer the question or refuse to do so if he is politically afraid to do so,” he said.

However, Zammit Lewis said that Busuttil got his information wrong and that the article hadn’t even mentioned bank guarantees that BOV gave Air Malta.

“The relationship between BOV and Air Malta is more secure for the bank than when Busuttil was an MEP,” he said, warning that Busuttil and Borg were being “irresponsible” in their questions.

The Opposition leader took issue with this comment, accusing the minister of “insulting” the Opposition, a remark that drew mocking sounds of shock from the government benches. 

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