Updated 7.20pm with details

Former Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi fired a broadside at PN leader Bernard Grech as he resigned from the party on Monday, giving details about a December 2021 lunch Grech had with businessmen close to Yorgen Fenech.

"Politicians should be careful not to do anything that gives the impression that they are ready to compromise with people in the mafia," Azzopardi wrote of his former party leader. 

In a long statement carried on Facebook, the fiery former minister said that early in December 2021 Grech had met a group of some six businessmen, including two who were close relatives of Fenech (whom he did not mention by name). The two are not part of the Tumas Group.

Also present were a contractor and the owner of a major appliances business, Azzopardi said, saying Grech had confirmed this himself during a meeting of the PN administrative council on Sunday afternoon.

Azzopardi claims that during the meeting, Grech was handed a donation for a fundraising marathon held by the party a few days later.  

The former MP said that shortly before the dinner, Grech was taken aside by the two Fenech relatives, who raised the matter of a pardon for him.

"I am informed that the PN leader assured them that had he been the prime minister, he would have been ready to recommend a pardon," Azzopardi wrote. 

He said the businessman who sells appliances - whose name starts with ‘O’, he added -  told Grech during the same dinner that he would not vote for the party "for as long as Jason Azzopardi is there”.

Grech reportedly replied: “Speak to me after the election.”

Azzopardi said he had got his information from three different sources, which he had promised not to reveal.

Grech has in the past made it clear that he would be willing to consider granting Fenech a pardon, should that be necessary to arrive at the truth. 

Fenech stands accused of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Azzopardi is one of the Caruana Galizia family's lawyers. 

Azzopardi said he had disagreed with Grech's position on this pardon, both privately and publicly.

“This is unacceptable behaviour for me. In my view, politicians should be careful not to do anything that may give the impression that they are ready to compromise with members of the mafia,” Azzopardi said.

Criminals should be seen at the law courts, not with political parties and to give the impression that the parties needed to raise funds from the rich gave privileged access to rich criminals. 

Azzopardi said the PN leader alone knew whether or not his decision to argue in favour of a pardon for Yorgen Fenech was motivated by a donation of some kind.

An 'expired' jab that cut deep

He said that he had initially kept his criticism private but was forced to go public after Grech had declared him as “expired”.

Grech said last weekend when asked about Azzopardi’s failure to get elected that “every politician has an expiry date”.

Azzopardi implied that the PN was no longer as rigidly anti-corruption as it was in the past, saying that the party seemed to no longer have any room for those “who do not compromise with the principle that there must be a distance between politics and those who used their money to buy privilege above the law.”

He accused Grech of having rendered him a “political orphan” and said that despite his mistakes and defects, his integrity remained “unblemished”.

Azzopardi said he hoped the PN and its leader would recognise that in this case mistakes had been made, that needed to be addressed.

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