PN donations hailed from ‘publicity shy’ catering firm

Financial transactions under investigation by the Electoral Commission will be centred around invoices issued by the PN’s media to Sky Gourmet Malta, a subsidiary of db Group owned by Silvio Debono which does not normally take out television advertising

The PN is yet to publish the invoices for services rendered by its media.
The PN is yet to publish the invoices for services rendered by its media.

The Nationalist Party has not denied that the db Group subsidiary it invoiced for €70,800 for “programming” on its media – in return for an alleged donation to pay off party executives’ salaries – is Sky Gourmet Malta, a company which exclusively provides catering services to airlines and does not provide any services to the general public.

MaltaToday is informed that the financial transactions under investigation by the Electoral Commission will be centred around invoices issued by the PN’s media to Sky Gourmet, a subsidiary of db Group owned by Silvio Debono. The company does not normally take out television advertising.

The PN is being accused of breaching party financing rules, with the db Group insisting that it was asked to pay salaries of the PN executives, through donations that were “paid” to the PN’s media company Media.Link, but which were not backed up by actual commercial services rendered.

While the PN has denied the allegation that commercial services were not rendered, the db Group has said that it has invoices to prove the donations paid via the PN’s media company. Joseph Muscat has gone as far as describing the affair as fraudulent given that no service was rendered.

Commission probe over donations ‘invoiced’ by media company

Replying to MaltaToday’s questions on what services were rendered to Sky Gourmet, a PN spokesperson said: “The PN has already said that it will continue to respect the privacy of the commercial arrangements between and its clients. Moreover, the matter is currently being investigated by the Electoral Commission and we are confident that we will defend the matter successfully there.”

Sky Gourmet Malta Ltd – a db Group joint venture with Vienna-based Airest Austria (Do & Co) and Maltese catering company James Caterers – provides in-flight catering services to Airmalta, Emirate Airlines and other top end carriers.

Over the past two weeks, Labour has incessantly called on the Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to immediately publish the invoices for €70,800, purportedly booked for advertising.

The hotel chain has claimed that it had been paying the salaries of two high-ranking officials – secretary-general Rosette Thake and CEO Brian St John – with €70,800 having been transferred to the party in 2016 alone.

But PN leader Simon Busuttil, who has admitted meeting Debono on a number of occasions, has denied these claims and argued that the money received by was a “commercial relationship linked to programming on Net TV and Media.Link.”

He has also refused to give the money back to the company, insisting that the transection was legal.

Asked whether he would be publishing invoices to back up his claims, given that db Group said it did take out the equivalent of €70,800 in advertising, Busuttil has argued that it would not be right for the party to publish invoices because “a commercial relationship between two companies is, by its very nature, private.”

The PN is now facing an investigation by the Electoral Commission over claims that db Group advanced its donation to the PN’s media company, under the guise of commercial services that may have not been rendered.

The PN has so far resisted calls from the Labour Party to publish a copy of the invoices.

The db Group is behind the development of the controversial project at St George’s Bay in St Julian’s, which will see the land currently occupied by the Institute of Tourism Studies, developed into a Hard Rock Hotel and luxury property believed to encompass a €300 million investment.

The ITS deal will see Debono forking out only €15 million over ten years for public land that has been valued at €200 million. The total €60 million price tag for the land includes various ground rents that will in part be paid when property on site will be developed and sold off.

After MaltaToday revealed that the PN deputy leader Mario de Marco was involved in ITS negotiations in his role as db Group’s lawyer, Busuttil announced that the Opposition would be referring the contract for the transfer of the ITS site to the Auditor General to be investigated.

De Marco has since announced that he has renounced the db Group brief but the storm which has overwhelmed the PN over the past two weeks has all but receded, with Busuttil insisting that there is no rift between him and right-hand man.