The Malta Independent 2 March 2021, Tuesday

TMIS Editorial - Rosianne Cutajar: serious allegations that merit a suspension

Sunday, 21 February 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 9 days ago

A member of Cabinet is facing very serious accusations and is the subject of an investigation by the Standards Commissioner, but the Prime Minister refuses to take any action and the Parliamentary Secretary in question has not thought it fit to suspend herself until the probe is over.

Despite feeble attempts at denial, Rosianne Cutajar is facing allegations that she received thousands of euro from her role in a property deal – a deal that involved Yorgen Fenech, of all people.

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According to media reports, Cutajar received €9,000 in cash from Fenech, who was trying to purchase the expensive Mdina property, and another €46,500 from the seller.

Fenech also paid a €31,000 brokerage fee, in cash, to Charles Farrugia ‘it-Tikka,’ who happens to be a close political aide of Cutajar.

Cutajar reportedly helped Farrugia broker the deal, and even accompanied him, together with Fenech, for a viewing of the property.

The deal fell through after Fenech’s arrest and subsequent arraignment, and the seller is now said to be chasing Cutajar to have her return the €46.5k.

At the time the brokerage fees were paid, in August 2019, Fenech had already been outed as the owner of 17 Black.

Cutajar has denied being involved in any business with Yorgen Fenech but has failed to explain how she allegedly pocketed thousands of euro from the Mdina deal, or how no such payments have appeared in her 2020 declaration of assets.

She has consistently failed to answer journalists’ questions properly and, when she replied, her answers were short and ambiguous.

When questioned by Times of Malta earlier this week, Cutajar simply said she had “never done business with Yorgen Fenech”, but refused to elaborate further, saying that she would not give a lengthier reply because her comments “would not be published in full.”

This was also the case when this newsroom asked her to confirm claims that she had travelled with Yorgen Fenech to Dubai.

Cutajar’s reply was that, “my travelling abroad was always for vacation purposes. The vast majority of times I was, and am, accompanied by my family or friends.”

That ‘vast majority of times’ left things a bit vague, so we had asked Cutajar to confirm that she had never travelled with Fenech at all, whether it was a holiday or a business trip. The Parliamentary Secretary has never replied, despite repeated reminders.

Cutajar’s replies leave more questions than answers. If she really did nothing wrong, then she should declare so in very clear terms, rather than beating around the bush and giving cryptic comments.

The fact of the matter is that a member of Cabinet is under investigation by the Standards Czar over some very damning allegations – allegations which the Parliamentary Secretary has not little to dismiss.

The Opposition said this week that Robert Abela’s failure to take action against Cutajar is leading to more impunity. It is right in saying so.

When Robert Abela became Prime Minister in January of last year, he seemed eager the clean the Labour Party from the corruption of the previous administration. He seemed eager to distance himself and his administration from the wrongdoings of Joseph Muscat’s government.

Under his watch, Konrad Mizzi was sacked from the Labour Party. People like Chris Cardona were not given a seat in his Cabinet. Keith Schembri became a persona non grata at the Mile End.

But Abela seems to be adopting a different approach when it comes to transgressions that are taking place under his administration. This is one of those cases.

The Prime Minister has insisted that he will wait for the outcome of the Standards Commissioner’s investigation before taking any action. He said so a few weeks ago when the allegations first emerged, and he said it again this week, even after new allegations emerged.

Abela knows full well that the allegations levelled at Cutajar are very serious ones, and he knows that he does not need to rest on Hyzler’s investigation before taking a decision.

At best, Hyzler can conclude that Cutajar breached ethics. But this is not the only thing that counts. The fact that a junior minister was dealing in property with someone who owned a company linked to corruption – especially when this corruption involved senior members of the previous administration – the same people Abela is trying to distance the Labour Party from – is enough to warrant a resignation.

At the very least, Cutajar should be suspended from Cabinet pending the outcome of that investigation.

But the former Qormi mayor wants us to think that what she did is OK, and the Prime Minister is going along with it. We expect better.

 

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