The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
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Standards Committee adopts report which finds Rosianne Cutajar in breach of ethics

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 9 November 2021, 15:24 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Standards in Public Life Committee has adopted a report that found PL MP Rosianne Cutajar in breach of ethics.

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler had come to the conclusion that former Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar violated the code of ethics by acting as a broker in dealings with Yorgen Fenech for the sale of an Mdina property and not declaring her income from it. Reports had read that Rosianne Cutajar and one of her political aides – Charles Farrugia - allegedly received around €46,000 each as brokerage fees for the sale of a €3.1 million Mdina property to Yorgen Fenech.

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Hyzler had concluded that the evidence he had in his hand points out that Cutajar was “more likely than not” to have received a brokerage fee. Cutajar has denied receiving the funds, but admitted to have received €9,000 in cash from Fenech as a birthday gift.   

Charles Farrugia, known as it-Tikka, sent a letter to Speaker Anglu Farrugia, saying that the money he received was an “ex gratia” payment for introducing the seller, Joseph Camilleri, and the buyer, Yorgen Fenech. He claimed in the letter that Cutajar did not benefit from any of these payments to him. Charles Farrugia said that he had pocketed the entire brokerage fee and amended his tax return to this effect.

On Tuesday, Tax Commissioner Marvin Gaerty went before the committee to answer questions. He confirmed that the tax investigation surrounding the sale of an Mdina property which allegedly saw PL MP Rosianne Cutajar paid a brokerage fee is still ongoing.

The tax chief made clear that he is not able to give any details about the investigation as he is prohibited from doing so by law.

He did, however, answer a number of hypothetical questions.

The Tax Chief did, however, answer a number of hypothetical questions. He said, for instance, that the person who is required to declare income is the person who ‘provided a service for consideration’. He said that if two people for example, have a 50-50 partnership, and earn €50,000 each, both need to declare that income, even if one of them decided to donate his or her share to the other.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia also checked Cutajar’s declaration of assets in Parliament, and said that while it is obvious that she did not declare the alleged brokerage fee as she denies having received it, she did not declare the €9,000 gift she herself had admitted to receiving. 

Speaker Farrugia said that since the €9,000 was not included in her declaration of assets, he asked whether they could approve the report or not. 

PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia said that she feels it is her duty to accept and adopt Hyzler’s report. “Even if you just take the donation on its own, she admitted receiving the €9,000 and did not declare it in Parliament. The Tax Commissioner is still investigating the brokerage fee. The Tax Commissioner does not investigate without suspicion.”

PN MP Karol Aquilina agreed and said that it is clear that there is enough evidence to find a breach of the code of ethics.

PL MP Glenn Bedingfield agreed that the report should be adopted.

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis also agreed that the report should be approved. In terms of possible sanctions, he said that the MP has already paid a strong political price.

Cutajar has, since the investigation was concluded, lost her post of Parliamentary Secretary for Civil Liberties and Reforms, with her portfolio going to Owen Bonnici instead.  She remains a backbencher.

Discussions on sanctions will be heard at a later date.

The committee took a vote and adopted the conclusions and recommendations of Hyzler’s report.

In a statement following the committee's endorsement of the report, the Nationalist Party said that Cutajar should resign from parliament immediately, and that if she fails to do so out of her own volition, then Robert Abela should dismiss her from the PL Parliamentary Group himself.

 

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