Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has said a recent food donation to an anti-poverty charity in his district doesn’t constitute illegal “treating” as the ultimate recipients of the food won’t know who had gifted the food items to them.
“Definitely not, as the recipients of the food items do not know and will not know the source of the food,” Azzopardi told Lovin Malta when asked whether he considers the donation to be ‘treating’.
“None of the food items contain any reference to me or the origin of that food. None. Zero. By donating food items in a charitable donation to a Foundation, the MP is advertising the work of that/this Foundation and thereby inviting people to donate and/or help the Foundation help those in need.”
“The offence of treating does not convert charity into a crime. In one there’s malicious intent. In the other, there isn’t.”
Azzopardi argued that this distance between donor and recipient is what distinguishes his gift to the St Jeanne Antide Foundation from Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar’s gift of a handful of oranges to residents of the Smartcare Dar Pinto nursing home.
“Cutajar could have left the fruit with the main reception for it to be individually distributed by the administration,” he said.
“She opted otherwise. Let’s encourage charitable donations. Let’s frown upon treating. I trust you will not ask for criminal steps to be taken against politicians who donate their blood at the Blood Bank as they too will be donating blood which will end up given to people who will not know the source of that blood being given to them!”
Yesterday, NGO Repubblika filed a police report against Cutajar over her orange donation, arguing that it was in breach of provisions within the General Elections Act.
The law Repubblika cited states that it’s illegal to give out free food, drink, entertainment or items to people “for the purpose of corruptly influencing [them] to give or refrain from giving their vote at the election”.
It’s also illegal to “corruptly” accept such food or other items.
People found guilty of ‘treating’ are technically liable to a fine of up to €1,160 or imprisonment up to six months.
However, this law is not enforced at all, with a police spokesperson confirming with Lovin Malta that it hasn’t received a single report regarding treating in the past ten years.
This is despite journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia having filed a treating report against Economy Minister Silvio Schembri in the run-up to the 2017 general election.
Do you think politicians should be allowed to give freebies to their constituents?