Planning Authority boss Johann Buttigieg denies conflict over London freebie trip

PA executive chairperson threatens Times with libel over reports connecting him with family friend and businessman Adrian Buttigieg

Planning Authority executive chairperson Johann Buttigieg
Planning Authority executive chairperson Johann Buttigieg

The Planning Authority’s executive chariperson has denied having acted improperly by not disclosing a conflict of interest to his boss in 2011 when as a planner he recommended the approval of a friend’s planning application, namely businessman Adrian Buttigieg, one of the owners of the Malta National Aquarium.

Reservation forms seen by the Times of Malta show that a stay by Johann Buttigieg at the Royal Garden Hotel in London 2014, when he was later appointed MEPA CEO, was booked by Adrian Buttigieg’s company. Sources said the pair went to London to watch a football match between Chelsea and Manchester United.

Buttigieg has denied that Buttigieg’s La Salita Holding Ltd hosted that trip, and that his role as a planner in recommending the approval of a permit for the Malta National Aquarium or when La Salita recieved a permit in 2015 for a hotel extension, were connected.

“What the Sunday Times failed to disclose is that at the time of my involvement in the Aquarium project application, Adrian Buttigieg was not a shareholder and therefore did not stand to benefit directly from the project as evidenced in public records filed with MFSA,” Buttigieg said, hitting out at the newspaper’s report.

The Sunday Times reported that Buttigieg did not inform his direct superior of his potential conflict of interest when, as a case officer in 2011, he was assigned to review the National Aquarium’s permit application.

According to his boss at the time, Michelle Piccinino, Buttigieg did not disclose that the application involved his friend Adrian Buttigieg, godfather to one of his children and his wife’s business partner.

Adrian Buttigieg is today a director of the company behind the aquarium – which at the time was being proposed by entrepreneur Salvu Ellul of Elbros, owners of one of Malta’s main fish farms, Malta Fish Farming Ltd.

In November 2015, the PA also granted Adrian Buttigieg’s Mellieha hotel a two-storey extension permit.

Malta Fish Farming also received permits for cages allowing it to grow to four times the permitted number.

Buttigieg claims that the Times is misinforming the public with “unfounded allegations” and that he will insititute libel proceedings to defend his reputation.

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