Rosianne Cutajar has paid a high enough political price and it is time for her position to be "reconsidered", Robert Abela said on Wednesday. 

The prime minister said he was weighing his options over Cutajar while fielding questions over the appointment of Joe Cuschieri as Project Green CEO.

He said Cutajar has been handed the equivalent of a political death sentence by being first kicked out of her position as a junior minister and then forced out of the Labour Party's parliamentary group. 

“Nobody should pay a never-ending penalty, unless the circumstances of wrongdoing are extreme. And she [Cutajar] paid twice.”

The prime minister added: “Considering her penalty, the time that has elapsed and her good conduct since then, I don’t exclude reconsidering her position,” he told Times of Malta outside Castille. 

Robert Abela defends the decision to appoint Joseph Cuschieri - and says he's thinking of bringing Rosianne Cutajar back too. Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Asked whether that meant Cutajar would be brought back into the PL parliamentary group or be asked to run as a Labour candidate for MEP, he would not commit. 

He said there are several options and he is considering some of them.

“It would be cruel not to reconsider her position, especially considering she paid an ultra-high price for what she did.”

Cutajar, who currently serves as an independent MP, was moved out of cabinet in 2020 after Times of Malta revealed how she had benefited from a property deal involving Yorgen Fenech, who faces charges of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Then last April she resigned from the Labour parliamentary group after author and blogger Mark Camilleri leaked chats between her and Yorgen Fenech.

At the time, Abela had categorically excluded the possibility of Cutajar running as a Labour candidate again under his leadership and said the decision to force her out was proof that the bar for standards in public life had risen. 

Cutajar once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons last November, when the National Audit Office concluded that an ITS consultancy job she told Fenech about in those leaked chats was "fraudulent" and "irregular". 

Abela, however, downplayed Cutajar's wrongdoing. 

“Many PN MPs did way worse than her, yet they hold prominent positions in the party and are on the frontlines of the upcoming election,” Abela said, referring to her ITS consultancy. He refused to mention names, however. 

How Abela spoke in April 2023 about Cutajar, vs how he spoke on Wednesday.

Abela: Cuschieri is a doer

Abela was asked about Cutajar as he was justifying a decision to appoint Joe Cuschieri as Project Green CEO on Wednesday. 

Cuschieri, who previously led the Malta Gaming Authority and Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA), succeeds Steve Ellul, who resigned to run as a Labour MEP candidate. 

Former MGA and MFSA boss Joseph Cuschieri will lead Project Green.Former MGA and MFSA boss Joseph Cuschieri will lead Project Green.

Cuschieri had to resign as head of the MFSA in 2020 after it was revealed he went on a Las Vegas trip paid for by businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was later accused of the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

At the time, Cuschieri was just weeks into his new job at the helm of the MFSA, having previously served as the regulator for Malta's gaming sector.

Fenech and his family own a number of casinos. 

Abela said Cuschieri has all the credentials to do his job well and described him as a motivated doer who can fulfill the government’s promise to make the environment a priority.

“He paid the price for his wrongdoing and he does not deserve to continue paying it forever,” Abela said. 

“The price he paid and the time that has gone by since was enough of a penalty."

The government must discipline people but it must also be reasonable, he said, noting that an internal MFSA probe into the Las Vegas trip had concluded that Cuschieri had no idea of Fenech's alleged involvement in the Caruana Galizia assassination. 

“Had he been aware, today’s decision would have certainly been different," the prime minister said. 

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