The Council of Europe’s rapporteur on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia Pieter Omtzigit has requested an investigation into a potential breach of the code of conduct of the council’s parliamentary assembly by Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar.
The chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has been asked to investigate the fact that Cutajar had not declared a conflict of interest, stemming from her relationship with Yorgen Fenech, when she spoke out against Omtzigt’s report about the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The letter will now be discussed internally by the Rules Committee before it invites Omtzigt and Cutajar to appear before it to explain their positions. The committee will then decide whether Cutajar is guilty and, if so, what sanction to apply.
The report, which probed Malta’s handling of the investigation into the murder as well as the state of the rule of law in Malta, was opposed by only a handful of the PACE’s members during a June 2019 debate, including Cutajar.
The Labour MP has since been revealed to have had a personal relationship with the assassination’s alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech and was reported to have been involved in a property deal with Fenech, for which she had also received payment.
She has denied the claims, which are the subject of an investigation by the office of the Standards Commissioner.
“Ms Cutajar made a powerful speech against my report and tabled a number of amendments trying to weaken the report,” Omzigit wrote to committee chairperson Ingjerd Shou. He pointed out that among other things, Cutajar had explicitly stated that none of the cases that were emphasised by the report were related to the Caruana Galizia case.
The Electrogas deal was one of the cases mentioned in the report. Fenech is one of the major shareholders in the company.
He noted that Fenech’s secret Dubai company 17 Black played an important role in the affair. Fenech was arrested and charged with masterminding the murder a few months after the debate.
In his letter, Omtzigt highlights the fact that press reports had stated that Cutajar had been promised money by Fenech before the debate had taken place, and had received the funds in August 2019.
“Ms Cutajar has not filed a single declaration of interest in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by April 15th 2021. Neither did she make any oral statement drawing attention to her links with Mr Fenech,” noted Omztigt.
He said that according to PACE’s code of conduct, Cutajar should have made a declaration in the case of a potential conflict of interest, or “even better, she should have tried to resolve this conflict of interest before the debate”.
“I ask you to accept this letter and look into the behaviour of Ms Cutajar and her obligation to declare a relevant conflict of interest. In light of the very serious prima facie evidence, I suggest the committee inquire of Ms Cutajar whether she had any conflict of interest when signing amendments and speaking against the report in plenary. Alternatively, the committee could ask her to file her declarations of interest over the past three years,” Omtzigt concluded.
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