Politicians reciprocating a gift to a private individual does not cancel the original gift received, Malta’s Standards Commissioner has ruled following a report over MP Jason Azzopardi’s stay at a Hilton Hotel in 2017, paid for by the Tumas Group.
Hyzler made it clear that the issue falls outside of his remit since it predates October 2017 and cannot investigate such cases.
Tumas Group, the company that paid for Azopardi’s five-day stay at Tel Aviv’s Hilton hotel, is owned by Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
Azzopardi has since apologised for the incident, conceding he should have paid the full bill and not just pay for taxes and extras. Azzopardi has suspended himself from the PN parliamentary group pending an internal investigation.
In a statement following Hyzler’s report, Azzopardi said:
“I will not beat about the bush. Nor will I try to hide behind legal arguments.”
“When the cashier of the Hilton in Tel Aviv told me on my checking out in 2017 that the room charges were already taken care from the Malta side, I should have insisted on paying the full bill and not just pay for taxes and extras.”
“At that particularly difficult moment in my private life, I felt that I would have been churlish to refuse the offer made by Mr Ray Fenech and that the buying of a silver gift for Mr Ray Fenech would have been a clear enough sign on my part that no obligation existed. Surely he did not need any modest silverware from me, but it was my way of coming ‘even’.”
“Besides my impression that Fenech’s gift was ‘balanced’ by my gift, I note that in March 2017 the Tumas Group did not have any direct interest in any legislation before the House. The Electrogas deal had been sealed a long time before and there were no plans for legislation that could have impacted directly the Tumas Group or its subsidiaries.”
“During the time I spent in Cabinet, or at any point in time, ever, Ray Fenech never asked me for any favour and I am sure he was very conscious that I would not have felt in any way indebted to him because of his gift not could I proffer any favours as I had been out of government for many years.”
“Undoubtedly I am one of the politicians who to this day vociferously condemn the corrupt Electrogas deal, and day in day out risk my life because of my constant struggle against the cabal that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. The same cabal which assassinated her is the same one trying to kill me politically. They will fail.”
“Yes, I should have acted differently back then, and I apologise for not doing so but even my strongest critics have to concede that the Tel Aviv incident did not influence one iota the fulfilment of my duty as an MP.”
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