‘Prime Minister forces ministers to lie for Gaffarena’ – Azzopardi

PN want Joseph Muscat to take action on home affairs minister Carmelo Abela for denying in parliament that government sought expropriation of Valletta palazzo housing police station, in favour of Marco Gaffarena

Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi outside Palazzo Verdelin. Photo: Ray Attard
Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi outside Palazzo Verdelin. Photo: Ray Attard
Jason Azzopardi 'not privy' to information about PN-Gaffarena ties - Video by Ray Attard

The Nationalist Party has demanded that the Prime Minister take immediate action over what they claimed were “lies” by home affairs minister Carmelo Abela, who in parliament denied that the government intended acquiring Palazzo Verdelin.

The historic Valletta building, currently housing the Valletta police station, was apparently in the crosshairs of property entrepreneur Marco Gaffarena, who has already benefited from a controversial €1.65 million compensation from the State to have his half-ownership of another Valletta property expropriated.

The Gaffarena expropriation is currently under investigation by the Prime Minister’s internal audit and investigations department (IAID).

Gaffarena was reported to have been in private talks with the owners of Verdelin, to acquire the building in a bid to demand another handsome pay-off once the government expropriates the building for its own continued use.

“Joseph Muscat is not only an ally of Gaffarena. He defends him and makes his ministers lie on his behalf to defend Gaffarena. If Muscat takes not action on Abela, it confirms he is the mind behind Gaffarena’s filth.”

In a reply to Azzopardi in the House of Representatives, Abela had denied government’s intention to acquire Palazzo Verdelin. But emails reported in the Times of Malta show that the permanent secretary asked for political guidance on the acquisition.

“He would not have lied had he not been doing something that is wrong,” Azzopardi said. “And Muscat takes no action on corruption because he had been himself behind the Café Premier buy-out.”

In 2014, Muscat green-lit a controversial €4.3 million ‘bailout’ to the leaseholders of Valletta’s Café Premier, who were unable to pay their dues to the state. The buy-out, conditional on the repayment of taxes and outstanding ground rent to the state, ensured the restitution of the property to the State but controversially paid the owners enough cash to pay of their private debts with the banks, namely a €2 million loan.

PN links with Gaffarena

Azzopardi defended MP Beppe Fenech Adami's working relationship with the Gaffarenas, insisting that it went back to before the PN deputy leader was elected in parliament.

Azzopardi reiterated that the Gaffarena family turned to the Labour Party when it failed to get what it wanted from the Nationalist Party.
Gaffarena, namely a MEPA permit to sanction illegalities at their Qormi petrol station in order to legalize his pump.

The permit failed to be issued thanks to then MEPA chairman Austin Walker's casting vote. Both Labour and PN representatives - MPs Roderick Galdes and Joseph Farrugia (the latter no longer in parliament) - on the MEPA board had voted in favour.

The shadow justice minister would not comment on the old ties between the PN and Gaffarrena, saying that he was not privy to that information.

On Sunday, MaltaToday revealed that former PN secretary-general Joe Saliba had acquired property in Paceville with Joseph Gaffarena. "I'm not privy to that information and all I know is what emerges from reports in the media," Azzopardi said, adding that it was "tragic that so many scandals had evolved in such a short time under the Labour government".

Azzopardi said he "didn't exclude" that people had lost their trust in the political class as evidence of close ties between businessmen and politicians emerge. "That is why we have to fight for clean politics," Azzopardi said.

The former lands minister said he would find no problem if the government were to launch an investigation to uncover whether certain individuals had been facilitated during changes to development boundaries before 2008. "I am always in favour of the truth. The PN under Simon Busuttil wants politics based on honesty and truth."