Pierre Portelli reached out to Yorgen Fenech to help resolve growing salary issues within the PN while serving as the party’s Head of Media, Lovin Malta can reveal.
Fenech, who has since been charged in connection to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, had already been outed as the owner of 17 Black, the Dubai-based company linked to major corruption allegations in Malta.
Well-informed sources said that sometime in March 2019, Portelli contacted Fenech to relay concerns that the party was unable to pay wages of several staff members, believed to be within Media.Link.
Portelli had already been forced to let some people go and was worried that he would have to fire more come May 2019. Sources said that a meeting was eventually set up for 18th March but could not confirm what took place at the meeting.
Portelli and former PN leader Adrian Delia are currently subject of a magisterial inquiry concerning claims that they accepted regular payments from Fenech, which some have suggested could have been a bribe.
Under court testimony, Keith Schembri claimed that Portelli would meet Fenech once a month to collect €20,000. Meanwhile, he also claimed that Delia took €50,000 from Fenech to ensure that PN MEP David Casa was not re-elected during the 2019 elections.
The pair have both vociferously denied the claims.
Lovin Malta has previously revealed that Portelli and Fenech would communicate regularly on the encrypted messaging service, colluding on leaking stories against internal party rivals to Labour Party-leaning media houses.
This included stories against Chris Said, who competed against Adrian Delia for PN leadership, and Nickie Vella De Fremaux, Delia’s estranged ex-wife.
Portelli has refused to comment on the issue.
Court sittings have also exposed some other links between Portelli and Fenech.
Following questioning from lawyer Jason Azzopardi, Inspector Keith Arnaud confirmed that Fenech spoke to Portelli about replicating the Electrogas project in Bangladesh in January 2019.
The PN has said that it “is closely following the developments and will take the necessary appropriate and proportionate measures as provided by its own statute and code of ethics, if and when, such measures are required”.
Lovin Malta has detailed how the PN and its media house are straggled with millions in debt. Still, they have not published audited accounts in over 17 years.
Lovin Malta’s court case looking to declare propaganda on political party stations unconstitutional argues that these financial difficulties also render the political parties highly vulnerable to corruption since they are dependent on big business donations.
PN leader Bernard Grech dismissed concerns that big business could influence the party through Media.Link in a recent interview with Lovin Malta.
However, in 2017, then-leader Simon Busuttil courted controversy over payment made by db Group’s Silvio Debono to Media.Link. Debono. The company, who demanded the party return the fees after criticism of the ITS project, claimed that the payments were used to cover the salaries of both the secretary-general and the party’s CEO.
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