Updated | Mario de Marco denies breach of ethics, says works were not ‘gift’

Labour accuse de Marco of breach of ethics as PN deputy leader says €34,000 construction works carried out on his property by a firm caught up in BVI offshore storm were not 'gift'

PN deputy leader Mario de Marco [right] has denied breaching the ministerial code of ethics
PN deputy leader Mario de Marco [right] has denied breaching the ministerial code of ethics

PN deputy leader Mario de Marco has denied to having breached the ministerial code of ethics after it was suggested that he received €34,000 in unpaid construction work during his time as a Cabinet member.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat challenged Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to state what action he is going to take – if any – against the PN’s deputy leader, arguing that de Marco was clearly of a breach of ethics as he was a member of the Cabinet when the works were being carried out.

Muscat’s comments came in the wake of a MaltaToday on Sunday report which revealed how Pierre Sladden, one of the businessmen embroiled in the Panama Papers revelations had his company Redmap Constructions carry out €34,000 in works on properties owned by de Marco back in 2011.

The former tourism minister never paid for the works until last month when de Marco requested an invoice on the works Redmap carried out, after the Allied group in March launched an inquiry into alleged bribes paid to its former managing director, Adrian Hillman.

PN deputy leader Mario de Marco also insisted with MaltaToday that he had “regularly asked for an invoice in respect of works carried out but the contractor insisted that the invoice be made once the works are complete.”

And on Sunday, de Marco insisted that the works by Redmap Ltd carried out on his property were in no way a ‘gift’ and that he paid upon the receipt of an invoice.

The PN deputy leader explained that the refurbishment works on the uninhabited property started being carried out in 2009, and he subsequently engaged various contractors to carry out works on the property - which works were all paid.

“Redmap Ltd was commissioned in circa 2011 after the construction works on the property were completed. It was tasked to carry out minor interventional works on the property as and when needed in the course of the refurbishment works being carried out by other contractors. Works were carried out by Redmap Ltd interruptedly and sporadically over the period 2011 to 2015 and minor works are still pending for completion,” he explained.

“Despite repeated requests to Redmap Ltd from both my wife and myself to issue an invoice on account for works, Redmap Ltd insisted that the invoice would be sent once the works on the property are complete. This year I again requested for the invoice to be sent. Redmap Ltd complied and in March sent an invoice for works amounting to just under €34,000 inclusive of VAT, which invoice I have fully paid up.”

“At no stage were the ongoing works carried out by Redmap Ltd remotely considered on my part to be a ‘gift’. Redmap Ltd was contracted to do work like other contractors, and like I do with other contractors I expected to pay it, which I did upon receipt of invoice,” de Marco underlined.

Taking Muscat to task for having accused him of a breach of ethics, de Marco insisted that this was an attempt to divert attention from the corruption allegations that have engulfed the Labour administration in the wake of his “gross mishandling of the Panama Papers scandal.”

“Instead of resorting to feeble attempts of mudslinging, the Prime Minister should do what is obvious and expected of him and sack Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri without any further delay,” he continued.

De Marco's explanation not credible - Labour Party

In a statement published on Sunday afternoon, the Labour Party insisted that de Marco’s explanation is not credible, and consequently, he should be answering on the “clear breach of ethics.”

“There is no doubt that the businessman mentioned in the Panama Papers is linked to Mario de Marco and the top officials in The Times of Malta,” the Labour Party said.

Moreover, the PL questioned why de Marco felt the need to pay for the ongoing construction works after the resignation of the former managing director of Allied Group, Adrian Hillman.

“If de Marco said invoices were to be issued at the end of the works and works are still ongoing now, why was an invoice issued exactly after the Hillman story came out?” the PL said.