The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Anti-corruption inquiry into trading in influence finds no wrongdoing, but is slammed by Cassola

Monday, 20 November 2023, 10:32 Last update: about 7 months ago

Updated at 12:47 with a statement from Fredrick Azzopardi

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has slammed an anti-corruption probe that cleared Joseph Muscat's administration of allegedly favouring Yorgen Fenech with regards to an Mriehel project.

The Times of Malta last week reported that the anti-corruption commission had "absolved former junior minister Michael Farrugia over a meeting with business magnate Yorgen Fenech, almost four years after it was asked to investigate the matter. The  Permanent Commission Against Corruption said it was 'satisfied' that the two had discussed Portomaso during a 2014 meeting, and not plans to allow high-rise developments in Mrieħel."

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The Commission had, in its decision, said that the watch and Petrus wine given to Muscat by Yorgen Fenech were not given for there to be some economic advantage. It also found that there is no crime of trading in influence. In addition, the Commission said it was satisfied with the "detailed explanation by Michael Farrugia regarding the Mriehel towers project as well as that a meeting he had with Yorgen Fenech was not about Mriehel, but about Portomaso."

The request to investigate the matter had been made by Cassola back in 2019. Cassola's complaint, among other things, cited reports that Fenech had gifted Muscat expensive watches and bottles of Petrus wine, and asked the commission to see whether those gifts and relationships influenced policy decisions.

In a statement on Monday, Cassola said that "the Commission found it natural and normal that Parliamentary Secretary Michael Farrugia ordered MEPA to include Mrieħel amongst the designated highrise areas, an hour or so after having met Yorgen Fenech at Castille....and six weeks after the closing date for the submission of such proposals. The Commission against corruption also found it natural and normal that Yorgen Fenech communicated in secret Whatsapp messages with Joseph Muscat's acquired cousin, Fredrick Azzopardi of Infrastructure Malta,  to enquire about a junction at Mriehel... a year before Infrastructure Malta applied for it and two years before the junction was approved by the Planning Authority. Two years before this approval Fredrick Azzopardi assured Yorgen Fenech, always by secret whatsapp messages, that all was OK because Labour Party Executive member, Architect William Lewis, was working on it. Lewis was the architect in charge of the Mriehel project."

Meanwhile former Infrastructure Malta CEO Fredrick Azzopardi also released a statement to the media on the matter:

"The allegation that I discussed the Mriehel Underpass Project with third parties before it was publicly announced is a malicious lie. In fact, plans for the upgrading of the junction with a new underpass was public knowledge as far back as 2016, when permits for other projects in this area were determined. The upgrading of this junction with a new underpass was established through studies that were publicly- available, presented to the Planning Authority and Transport Malta and reported in local media three years before the indicated text messages were sent."
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