Labour: Busuttil acted too late on de Marco's conflict of interest

Why did it take PN leader Simon Busuttil so long to realise that Mario de Marco had a conflict of interest, Edward Zammit Lewis asks


Labour has once again accused PN leader Simon Busuttil of double standards
Labour has once again accused PN leader Simon Busuttil of double standards

Labour has once again accused PN leader Simon Busuttil of double standards and tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis asked why did it take Busuttil so long to take action on his deputy leader’s conflict of interest.

Today, MaltaToday Midweek reported that PN deputy leader Mario de Marco had informed PN leader Simon Busuttil of his conflict of interest over the transfer of the ITS site to a privates company he represented back in 2015.  

In fact, de Marco absented himself from a number of meetings during which the project was discussed. 

But Busuttil told the press on Monday that he had presented his deputy with an ultimatum last weekend – to choose between his political position and his private job as lawyer to Debono’s DB Group.  

"Why did it take so long for Busuttil to realise that de Marco had a conflict of interest when his deputy leader flagged this himself years ago?" Zammit Lewis asked.

De Marco also contradicted Busuttil’s claim that he had been given a choice to resign his post or withdraw his brief as legal advisor to hotelier Silvio Debono for his contentious St George’s Bay project.  

However, in response to questions by MaltaToday, de Marco contradicted his leader’s version of events.  

“I can confirm that there was no such meeting or such a request,” he said. “It was in fact I who had informed Simon [sic] earlier that my firm was willing to renounce its brief if this was creating a conflict problem to him or the party.” 

In today's press conference, Zammit Lewis also asked why Busuttil has not been as lenient as he had been with other MPs and asked whether the salaries of other PN officials are also paid by businesses.

Following MaltaToday's revelations on the involvement of the PN deputy leader Mario de Marco in the negotiations for the controversial transfer of land in St Julian's to entrepreneur Silvio Debono, the PN is caught in a storm over party financing after Debono claimed that he has been paying the salaries of PN secretary general Rosette Thake and CEO Brian St John. 

Also addressing the press conference was justice minister Owen Bonnici who accused the PN of receiving illegal donations. 

Bonnici said that while the PN had called for more transparency during the debate which led to the enactment of the party financing law, "it has breached the law behind everyone's back" by presenting fake receipts.  

PN leader Simon Busuttil has denied this and claimed that Debono is attempting to threaten and silence him after the PN referred the land deal to the Auditor General.

DB San Gorg Property will be paying a €5 million down payment for the ITS site in St Julian's and then a €10 million payment interest-free, payable over seven annual instalments. 

Of the total €65 million valuation for the land, €23.4 million will be paid in ground rents by purchasers of the property that DB San Gorg will develop on site. 

Meanwhile, yesterday evening, Labour’s media claimed that it was Busuttil himself who, in 2013, met and personally asked Silvio Debono to pay for the wages of the party’s secretary-general. 

Labour claimed that it has evidence that it was Busuttil who personally requested the meeting with Debono a few weeks after becoming leader in May 2013 when the party’s finances were in a dire situation.

A year later, Labour alleged, Busuttil requested another meeting with Debono, this time to ask the entrepreneur to pay for the wages of Brian St John who in October 2014 was appointed as CEO of the party’s commercial entity, Communications.