Jason Azzopardi hits out at Dragonara lease extension Opposition did not object to

Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi said that the 64-year lease of government land to the Dragonara Casino without a tendering process was "scandalous" and called for Economy Minister Chris Cardona to resign

Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi in Parliament
Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi in Parliament

Economy Minister Chris Cardona should "immediately resign" after a "scandalous" lease extension of government land without a competitive tendering process, Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi said.

He was speaking in Parliament when he said that Cardona had come to Parliament with a resolution informing the House that the government land would be leased for 64 more years after the previous lease agreement between government-owned Casma Ltd and Dragonara Gaming Ltd was entering its final year.

READ ALSO: Dragonara casino operator gets 64-year concession extension with no competitive tender

"This means that millions of euros and government land is simply being given away and all this behind the Prime Minister's back because the deal did not go through Cabinet. But because Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is a hostage of Cardona, he is unable to take measures against him," Azzopardi said.

The resolution was tabled in Parliament last week where the Opposition, of which Azzopardi is a member, had the opportunity to object, comment or even vote against the said resolution. None of these options were used in the democratic apparatus of Parliament and the Opposition had yet to officially comment upon the lease extension.

In his parliamentary speech on Tuesday, Azzopardi asked a suggestive question of how many times Cardona had been abroad with the directors of Dragonara Gaming Ltd.

"Muscat has lost his control over his minister, so much so that he is allowing a decision that binds the country to 65 years with the result of losing millions of euros," Azzopardi said.

Taking to Twitter, Azzopardi quoted the published parliamentary answer Cardona made to Azzopardi's question on the concession deal and said that it was "shocking" that the deal had not even been discussed amongst the Cabinet ministers.

He had also asked on Friday whether anyone had replaced the Casma Ltd Chairman Edward Gatt, who had resigned. Azzopardi implied that Gatt had resigned while the deal between Casma Ltd and Dragonara Gaming Ltd was being finalised. Nobody has filled Gatt's vacuum in the interim.

READ ALSO: Casino rivals mull action over state aid rules’ breach

Council of Europe report

Azzopardi contradicted Justice Minister Owen Bonnici's claim that Turkey was the only country to be monitored by the Council of Europe.

"This is not true. There are ten other countries and the list is public: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine," Azzopardi said.

He said that when Bonnici accused him of being “spiteful” for supporting a call for the Council of Europe to impose a monitoring procedure on Malta is also a lie. 

"I have nothing to be ashamed of. Shame should be felt by whoever defends the corrupt. The traitor is the corrupt and history will vindicate us eventually," he said, adding that he was proud of fighting for democracy in Malta unlike Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who was a hostage of the criminals who had surrounded him and of the situation he had created in government.

He added that the 42 amendments Maltese delegates submitted to the "damning" Council of Europe report, were all shot down in the European Parliament.

Egrant Inquiry leak

Azzopardi accused Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister Chris Cardona of behaving like criminals before the law courts.

In a case filed by NGO Repubblika, calling for an inquiry on the controversial Vitals Global Healthcare hospitals concession deal, the three ministers made reference to the Egrant Inquiry report, a report that is yet to be made public.

"When Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit questioned how the ministers were quoting from the report, the ministers were completely evasive and since they have the right to remain silent and they invoked it, the magistrate couldn't force them to answer. This is what we have become: having ministers invoking their right to remain silent as criminals do," Azzopardi said.

Joseph Muscat's European aspirations

Azzopardi concluded by targeting the Prime Minister, saying that Muscat had had a serious shot at occupying a high office within the European Union, possibly replacing European Council President Donald Tusk, but was ultimately not considered by the EU a week ago since he was considered "toxic."

"He could have avoided this situation had he taken steps against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri but because he protected them he allowed the Bank of Valletta, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, the Malta Financial Services Association to become victims of their impunity," Azzopardi said.

He added that the Prime Minister of the smallest European member state had a "golden opportunity" to occupy a high office but lost this golden ticket because he abstained from removing those people who were compromising that very same golden opportunity for Malta.

"The question we need to ask is this: what is that serious and important for Muscat that made him lose such an opportunity that he himself wanted so desperately? What do the criminals around him know about him?" Azzopardi asked, adding that following the Standards Commissioner, George Hyzler's report, it was clear that Muscat had "bought the loyalty" of his MPs by allowing them to have government jobs, ostensibly engendering several cases of conflict of interest.