[WATCH] Busuttil: ‘Debono is lying, De Marco’s conflict of interest only arose last weekend’

Simon Busuttil: 'Seabank is in bed with Labour...everyone who donates money to the PN assumes they are paying for staff's salaries'

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil insisted that it is a “categorical lie” that db Group boss Silvio Debono has been forking out the monthly salaries of the PN’s secretary general Rosette Thake and CEO Brian St John.

“All donations that the PN receives, and we received over €1 million last year, are used to pay the party’s operations, activities and salaries,” he told the press. “I would imagine that everyone who donates money to the PN assumes that he is paying for the party staff’s salaries. The crucial point is that Rosette Thake’s pay cheque was signed by the PN and that of Brian St John was signed by MediaLink. It is an absolute lie that Seabank is paying their salaries.

“Even if, for argument’s sake, Seabank is telling the truth then it still proves that I am in nobody’s pocket because I still came out against the ITS project despite Seabank’s donations.

The DB Group, owner of the Seabank hotel who will be developing a €300 million Hard Rock Hotel on the site of the Institute of Tourism Studies, revealed on Sunday that they paid the monthly salaries of Thake and St John.

The declaration comes in the wake of statements by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who said CEO Arthur Gauci had warned he would no longer back the party financially over statements he made bringing into question the concession granted to the group at St George’s Bay.
Late in the afternoon on Monday, the PN issued a statement, categorically denying hotelier Silvio Debono’s allegations. Yet the hotelier retorted that it was the PN’s own top officials, who said the €70,800 they asked for would go towards the salaries of the secretary-general and CEO.

“On the request of these same officials, we were to be invoiced by Media.Link, as happened. In 2016, globally these invoices amounted to €70,800, exactly as we were requested for these two salaries, pertaining to the secretary-general’s and the CEO’s.”

However, Simon Busuttil insisted that “the true scandal” was the fact that the government sold the land in St George’s Bay to Seabank for a paltry €15 million.

“Seabank and Labour are in bed with each other, and the only reason they are ferociously attacking me is because I requested that the land deal be investigated by the National Audit Office. That is the true scandal, not the donations the PN receives.”

‘De Marco’s conflict of interest only arose this weekend’

Busuttil also told the press that he had no problem with the fact that his deputy leader Mario de Marco had served as legal advisor to Silvio Debono on his St George’s Bay project until this weekend – when the PN decided to request that the deal be investigated by the NAO.

“I had known that de Marco was Seabank’s lawyer for years, but there was no problem with that until we decided to refer the case to the NAO,” he said. “The moment we did that, I gave de Marco a choice and told him that he cannot continue working as their lawyer when his own party is objecting to it. That’s when the conflict of interest arose, and de Marco decided to renounce his position as legal advisor.”

However, the PN had long been questioning the fairness of the land deal, including in a parliamentary debate a few weeks ago, and indeed Busuttil was asked how he could not see a conflict of interest by his deputy before last weekend.

He responded: “MPs have a right to their private legal practices, and there’s no conflict of interest just so long as the party has no problem with their clients. In this case, de Marco’s conflict of interest as Seabank’s lawyer only arose when we decided that the NAO must investigate the deal.”

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