Johann Buttigieg must be made to resign from his post at the Malta Tourism Authority immediately and those in power have to be held accountable at all costs, Moviment Graffitti said on Sunday.

In a statement following an article in Times of Malta showing how the former Planning Authority chairman had expressed a willingness to “do business” with 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech, Graffitti said the revelations corrobate what it has long been saying about the PA – that it is “wholly corrupt, and caters mostly, if not solely, to the interests of big business and the political class”.

Graffitti said the PA has long been granting construction magnates “unbridled power through their development projects”, which often run contrary to the needs of citizens.

“This article reveals black-on-white how close relationships between top-management at the PA and the business and political classes create a climate of impunity – that not only are construction magnates free to run rampant, but are entertained to do so behind-the-scenes at the Planning Authority,” it said. 

It added that this issue goes beyond Fenech. It asked which other developers enjoyed a friendly relationship with Buttigieg, and why the former chairman never declared a conflict of interest when presiding over planning decisions he had a clear position of influence in.

“Risks of influence-peddling are too evident. Every project mentioned in these chats require further inspection by authorities, while an independent investigation needs to be set up into Buttigieg’s conduct at the PA,” it insisted.

PA board members and high-ranking officials, it said, must be held personally responsible for their conduct, especially in terms of breaching policies, their own code of ethics, conflict of interest, undue influence and other improper behaviour.

Graffitti said one could not forget the responsibility of Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg in this. Borg stood by Buttigieg throughout all the criticism and backlash received against the PA.

Two months after Graffitti asked the minister to take responsibility for Buttigieg’s behaviour, Buttigieg “resigned” from the PA and was given a high-salary position in the Malta Tourism Authority – an exchange that took place amid tensions between Buttigieg and Portelli.

What Borg know about the tense dynamics between Buttigieg, Fenech and Portelli and what was the real reason behind his removal from the PA, Graffitti asked.

Commission Against Corruption must investigate - Cassola

Graffitti’s statement also followed a request by independent candidate Arnold Cassola for the Commission Against Corruption to investigate Buttigieg.

In a letter to the commission, Cassola also said that between January 17 and 20, 2014, Buttigieg not only travelled with a businessman who had a project under consideration at the authority but also accepted a £321 gift from Adrian Buttigieg, the owner of La Salita, who also had a project being considered by the PA.

This gift consisted of three days in a Queen Room at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

Attached files

During that weekend, the two men went to London together with a Bank of Valletta official who was at the time considering whether to issue a loan to La Salita. The three men went to watch the Chelsea-Manchester United football game on January 19, Cassola claimed.

He said that while he was presenting proof of the hotel payment, he had none regarding who paid for the trip and the game tickets.

He asked for the investigation to be carried out in a timely manner.

The Nationalist Party and civil society group Repubblika also issued calls for Buttigieg to be investigated and resign from the MTA.

The PN said the Prime Minister cannot hide from the revelations and should order the investigation of all projects mentioned in the Times of Malta article.

He should also immediately terminate Buttigieg’s appointment in the Malta Tourism Authority and investigate his work within this authority and within the Planning Authority.

The longer Abela took to take action, the more he placed the economy at risk.

The tourism sector had been weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the longer Abela kept Buttigieg in his current position, the greater the harm on the reputation of the Maltese tourism sector, the PN said.

Repubblika said it expected the Prime Minister to immediately remove Buttigieg from the MTA and ensure that he did not hold any public positions.

The Prime Minister, Repubblika said, was responsible to stop this and discover who ix-Xiħ that was approving projects was, find out what these projects were and who was benefitting from them.

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