Robert Abela has tenaciously refused to publish his tax returns for the years preceding his election to parliament in 2017.

Why he resists this basic act of transparency is a mystery to all the citizens of Malta. He cannot escape the fact that he is well off and that this comfortable lifestyle is visible to one and all.

In fact, despite his young age, the man leads a lifestyle that is way above the average and, therefore, he simply cannot afford to do away with public scrutiny, even more so since he and his wife officially entered the political arena.

The major source of his wealth would seem to have been derived from the bonanza offered to him and his family by the Planning Authority. Lucrative contracts at the Planning Authority were first granted under the Nationalists as from 2001 to Papà (later president) George.

In fact, the manna started falling from heaven during the premiership of Eddie Fenech Adami. The legal company Abela, Stafrace & Associates (read George, Ian & Associates Robert and Lydia) was given a lucrative contract by the Planning Authority after a public call for interest. Nothing wrong in that and everything was above board.

The suspicious activity started a few years later when this contract was renewed without any public call for tenders, first by the Nationalists themselves and, from 2013, by the Muscat Labour administration. 

Why would the Nationalists be so keen to give George Abela and associates an exclusive hold on the Planning Authority contracts, so much as not to have any public tenders issued till the end of their tenure in power in 2013?

One reason could be the close relationship between George Abela and Lawrence Gonzi who, if I well recall my university days, were buddies in the same five-year university course, not to speak of the strong Law football team, where Gonzi was an excellent ‘libero’ and George a slightly less classy midfielder. 

But another reason could have been the attempted political appeasement of the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, who would go on to lose the leadership tussle against Joseph Muscat in 2008. The possible PN Machiavellian attempt to divorce George Abela from Labour was finally successful in 2009, when George (Law team midfielder) was appointed president of the Republic by the Law team ‘libero’, Gonzi.

At this point, the Planning Authority and their ‘no tender’ contracts were not revoked. Instead, Stafrace took over... and the associates, Robert and Lydia, continued to partake of the comfortable earnings. The situation changed in 2011, when Stafrace, again without a public call for applications, was appointed CEO of the Planning Authority and the duo Robert and Lydia continued running the show, this time under the name of Abela & Abela.

Lucrative contracts at the Planning Authority were first granted under the Nationalists from 2001 to George Abela- Arnold Cassola

With the advent of Muscat to power, the appointment to the post of Planning Authority CEO was given to Johann Buttigieg. We now know that Buttigieg was in contact with the alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination mastermind, Yorgen Fenech, while the contract of the Abelas continued to be renewed without any public tenders.

With such a political set-up, how could the son of the former labour deputy leader and the then president of Malta and the presidential daughter-in-law and present secretary of the Labour Party, Lydia, be deprived of their lucrative contracts?

Basically, Papà’s boy Robert and partner Stafrace partook of all this bounty offered to the Abelas under the PN. Then, with Labour in government as from 2013, the manna continued flowing.

Despite all this manna, Robert was seldom to be seen at the Planning Authority. Employees estimate that he would not have spent more than a week per year on the premises.

Today, he definitely spends much more than that in Ragusa, despite the fact that he is not getting any €17,000 a month retainer in the Sicilian town.

What is now evident to one and all is that Abela & Abela certainly made hay while the sun shined, with their €17,000 a month at the Planning Authority.

Indeed, MP Jason Azzopardi maintains that the two Abelas pocketed another €123,000 in Planning Authority direct orders over and above the €17,000 monthly retainer and many more thousands from other entities, such as ARMS and Air Malta.

I am assuming that, like all honest citizens, Robert has declared all these earnings to the taxpayer. So, I ask you, dear prime minister, why do you refuse to publish your tax declarations?

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