The Nationalist Party is willing to take action against its former Head of Media.Link and current executive member Pierre Portelli over troubling WhatsApp conversations with Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination that’s also linked to major corruption scandals.
This comes after Inspector Keith Arnaud confirmed that Fenech spoke to Portelli about replicating the Electrogas project in Bangladesh in January 2019. This was well after Fenech was revealed to be the owner of 17 Black, a Dubai-based company linked to corruption and the Panama Papers scandal.
Following questioning from lawyer Jason Azzopardi, Arnaud said that the pair had spoken about the issue on WhatsApp.
“The PN has full trust in the judicial process and its independence and any comment at this stage may prejudice the case.”
“Nonetheless, the PN 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,” PN Secretary-General Francis Zammit Dimech told Lovin Malta.
Such actions could include suspension or even removal from the party.
Lovin Malta has been told by well-informed sources that Portelli and Fenech had a cosy relationship, holding several meetings throughout 2019.
When contacted by Lovin Malta, Portelli said he could not confirm the veracity of the messages as he did not save any of his conversations with Fenech.
“My relationship with the Tumas Group was always professional. The competent authorities have all the exchanges I’ve had with Yorgen and I’ll cooperate as I’ve always done in case I’m asked for any clarification,” he said.
Portelli has been subject to claims that he and former PN Leader Adrian Delia accepted 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. An inquiry has been opened into the claims.
Meanwhile, one WhatsApp exchange between Fenech and Delia published by the Times of Malta showed the former asking the latter if he was up for an informal meal. Delia thanked him for the offer and telling him he will ask his then head of media Pierre Portelli to organise it.
It remains to be seen how the situation will develop. Portelli and Delia have been ousted from the party’s top structures but still remain part of the party itself.
Court sittings have so far revealed the extent of Fenech’s relationship with the top echelons of Malta’s government. Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar, and former MGA and MFSA head Joe Cuschieri all have their own questionable links to the murder suspect.
The next sitting is on Thursday 11th February.
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