Updated 6.55pm

Jason Azzopardi has resigned from the Nationalist Party following a public spat with party leader Bernard Grech.

Azzopardi submitted his resignation to PN secretary general Michael Piccinino on Monday evening.

The resignation comes a day after the PN gave Azzopardi 24 hours to substantiate claims he made on social media.

Azzopardi alleged in a Facebook post on Saturday that he had stopped a donation to the party from someone seeking a pardon for a relative.

The Facebook post is understood to be a reference to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech, who had multiple pardon requests in 2019 turned down by the government. Fenech stands accused of complicity in journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Grech on Sunday categorically denied that the party had received any such donations and urged Azzopardi to substantiate his claims with the party’s ethics commission.

In a declaration published on social media on Monday evening, Azzopardi alleged that Grech had received a donation in December 2021 from relatives of a murder suspect, which Azzopardi did not name, at a dinner which also involved a contractor and "major appliances entrepreneur". 

He said the relatives do not form part of the Tumas business empire. 

Azzopardi claims that before that meal, the two relatives pulled Grech aside and pressed him to push for the accused person in question to receive a presidential pardon. 

"I am informed that the PN leader assured them that if he was prime minister, he would be inclined to recommend such a pardon," Azzopardi said. 

Grech has in the past said that he would consider granting Yorgen Fenech a pardon, if there was no other way to get to the truth in the Caruana Galizia murder case. 

War of words

The war of words between Azzopardi and Grech was sparked over the weekend after the PN leader said, in an apparent reference to the former MP, that "every politician has an expiry date."

In his resignation letter, Azzopardi said that he was returning his PN membership to the party "with a heavy heart". 

He said giving up his membership was like giving up a part of his own self, as the PN had been his home since the age of 17. 

Azzopardi said the values and principles which drew him to become a member of the party in 1988 were still very much alive within him. 

He said he had taken the decision to resign after a long period of reflection, as he was not willing to compromise his values. 

Azzopardi failed to make it to parliament in the March election, for the first time since 1998.

Questioned about Azzopardi’s claims, a PN spokesperson told Times of Malta that Bernard Grech: “never discussed Yorgen Fenech, a clemency deal or a pardon with anyone”.

Asked if Grech favours a pardon for Fenech, the spokesperson said: “Dr Grech was and will always be in favour of the whole truth coming out."

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us