The Nationalist Party has urged the Prime Minister to sack Malta Tourism Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg following revelations that he had told murder suspect Yorgen Fenech he was willing to do business with him.
Sunday Times of Malta reported today that Buttigieg expressed his willingness to doing business with Fenech in February 2019, back when he [Buttigieg] was executive chairman of the Planning Authority.
“Robert Abela cannot run away from today’s revelations,” the PN said in a statement. “He must order an investigation into every project that was mentioned in the [Times] report, terminate Buttigieg’s MTA contract, and investigate his work at the MTA and the PA.”
“With every passing day that Abela continues sweeping this dirt under the rug instead of taking action, he continues placing Malta’s economy at risk. The tourism sector has already been weakened by the pandemic, and with every passing day that he keeps Buttigieg in his role, Abela continues smearing Malta’s reputation.”
Sources told Times of Malta that Fenech had offered to go halves with Buttigieg on a property development he was planning to take over from Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli.
Buttigieg responded that while he was willing to do business with Fenech, he wasn’t interested in that particular deal.
In another chat a month earlier, Fenech reportedly invited Buttigieg to discuss a project that had been given the blessing by “ix-Xiħ”, and the then PA boss responded with “Let’s do it”.
Fenech infamously referred to ‘Ix-Xiħ’ in a private conversation with Melvin Theuma that the state witness recorded. Theuma confirmed in court that this was a coded reference to then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Fenech and Buttigieg also reportedly discussed a number of projects, such as the Tumas-owned development of the former Halland Hotel in Swieqi and the Manoel Island project, which Tumas was in talks to take over before negotiations collapsed following Fenech’s arrest.
Fenech also reportedly sent the PA chairman an “extremely confidential” render of a proposed tower project adjacent to Portomaso, and Buttigieg responded that he “prefers the cube”.
Buttigieg said he never did business with Fenech and that his role as PA executive chairman involved guiding planning applicants about how to proceed with their plans in line with the law and planning policies.
Rosianne Cutajar recently suspended herself as Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms pending an investigation by the Standards Commissioner into how she had allegedly helped Fenech broker a property deal.
Following the Buttigieg story, Moviment Graffitti called for an independent into his conduct at the Planning Authority while former Alternattiva Demokratika leader Arnold Cassola has asked the Permanent Commission Against Corruption to investigate.
Last November, Abela said he considers it unacceptable for heads of government authorities to be engaged in private business while in their public sector position.