The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

John Dalli challenges Jason Azzopardi on Marsovin deal, attacks TMI

Monday, 23 January 2017, 13:07 Last update: about 4 years ago

Former Economy and Finance Minister and EU Commissioner John Dalli challenged Shadow Minister Jason Azzopardi “to explain to the Maltese Public in what way the Government Property Division had its hands tied to remove the restrictive conditions” paving the way for Marsovin to sell the former Lowenbrau factory to business magnate ZarenVassallo for €8 million.

In a letter sent to The Malta Independent reacting to an article which appeared in The Malta Independent on Sunday and online, Mr Dalli took exception to the term ‘revolving doors’ used in his regard to describe his resignation from minister in 2004 and immediately landing a job as Chairman of the Marsovin Group. In his letter, Mr Dalli still didn’t confirm or deny that he also served as consultant to Marsovin or one of its subsidiaries, back in 1996-1998 when he formed part of the PN Opposition.

Below is the full text of Mr Dalli’s letter to the Editor, followed by a short editorial note:

The editor,

The Malta Independent on Sunday,

Today you published an article entitled Revolving doors: John Dalli denies conflict of interest in Lowenbrau deal.

I will comment on your article point by point.

 

Being involved in a case of revolving doors

Do you know what revolving doors mean? Can anyone imagine quoting revolving doors over a period of 18 years?

Recently we had clear cases of revolving doors when previous cabinet ministers joined institutions that operated within the remit of their portfolios a short time after they were not returned to power.

A deal that is now being described as ‘unusual’

This attempt to instil doubts about my actions is dishonest. “Unusual” is not “unique” and it is not illegal. The Audit office confirmed in its report that “The NAO established that this direct allocation was in line with Article 3(1) of the Disposal of Government Land Act (Act XXXIII of 1976).”

Also, as stated in the letter that I sent to the Commissioner of Lands, the instructions I gave to the Commissioner of Lands were very clear: “to apply the usual conditions as per government policy”. So if any instructions I gave were amiss, the CoL was duty bound to inform.

This allowed Marsovin, in 2009, to redeem the ground rent and become the legal owner of the land by paying only €466,000.

This is another grossly dishonest statement. The contract signed in 1990 did not in any way allow Marsovin to become the legal owner of the land without the restricting clauses. THIS IS THE WHOLE ISSUE. And you are deliberately misleading your readers. The contract made in 2009 is being questioned because someone decided to cancel the restrictive clauses that were imposed back in 1990 without exacting proper compensation. It is the removal of these restrictive clauses that gave value to the property.

Resigned as foreign minister over travel bookings made through companies in which his daughters were involved

This is also false. I resigned from Cabinet because Gonzi told me that he did not want to have “a minister under investigation”. It was not about airline tickets. It was about a fraudulent report accusing me of corruption and which Gonzi had in his hand and refused to divulge to me. Although I was not aware of any investigation, he knew that he would be giving this report to the police who would be making an investigation. It turned out that the investigation resulted in the author of this report -Joe Zahra – being condemned to two years in prison for fraud. In a press conference held by Gonzi and myself in November 2007, Gonzi had to admit that all accusations levied against me were false.

And you are still spinning these false tales.

Dr Azzopardi insists that the Government Property Division had its hands tied by John Dalli’s 1990 agreement.

This is false and intended to mislead the public. The issue is not the redemption of the lease. The issue is the removal of the restrictive conditions. I would like Dr Azzopardi to explain to me and the Maltese Public in what way the Government Property Division had its hands tied to remove the restrictive conditions.

The value lies in the removal of the restrictive conditions. That is why Vassallo would not buy if the conditions remained. The mess was made by whoever decided to remove the conditions at a ridiculous compensation.

While Mr Dalli implied that the Eddie Fenech Adami Cabinet had approved the Lowenbrau deal without question

In my time, Cabinet never approved anything without question. Every issue was debated and discussed and amended as agreement was reached around the table. The Auditor’s report states that: “Following queries raised by the NAO, the Minister MEA indicated that this land was allocated following political protests against the granting of a development permit for the construction of a brewery on land the Company had already acquired, and that there was a Cabinet decision to this effect. This was corroborated by the NAO following review of extracts of Cabinet minutes dated 9 July 1990, 1 October 1990 and 4 February 1991”. This shows that the decision was not a flash in the pan decision. It was raised in cabinet three times over a period of 7 months and not made in 24 hours as seems to be the case in the decision of 2009.

I will not comment on what Georges Bonello Depuis said with regards to his father due to respect of the dead. It also shows that the author of the article did not read the Auditor’s report or even worse, if he did he hid the facts exposed by this report. This manipulation of data is also highly dishonest.

 

Editorial note: The Malta Independent thanks Mr Dalli for his letter but reserves the right to clarify misconceptions made in his reply to the article: Revolving Doors: John Dalli denies conflict of interest in Lowenbrau deal, in which Mr Dalli was asked for comments prior to publication and was quoted ad verbatim.

The term ‘revolving doors’ is commonly used when people in public office take up jobs with sectors in the industry with whom they dealt with when in office, soon after their departure from politics. The same issue was recently raised when Former EU Commission President Barroso joined Goldman Sachs.  Mr Dalli left his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2004 and not in 1986 as implied in his reply.

Mr Dalli says that it is not true that he resigned over the air-ticketing scandal which was the official reason given by then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in 2004. The Malta Independent takes note of this development however Dr Gonzi hasn’t reversed his 2004 statement on the matter.

The Malta Independent rejects the claim made by Mr Dalli that we “deliberately mislead” our readers. On the contrary The Malta Independent always sought comments from Mr Dalli on every issue, controversy and scandal he has been involved in during the past years and published his comments without restrain, including those levelled against our journalists and editors. 

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