Updated 6.05pm, adds Anton Refalo's statement
The Prime Minister should “take action” against Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo after authorities inspected his Qala home and found a heritage artefact there, the Nationalist Party has said.
In a press conference on Friday, shadow minister for culture Karl Gouder and PN candidate Justin Schembri commended the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage for its vigilance in investigating the case, but said that the party is still waiting for Refalo to explain himself and for the police to investigate.
"The Prime Minister should take action on Anton Refalo because he broke the law and should be penalised," Schembri said.
Refalo has come under pressure after a photo published on Facebook showed a British-era stone marker in the garden of his Qala house.
The marker bears the inscription VR (Victoria Regina) and raised questions as to whether it can be legally kept in a private garden.
The British-era relics used to dot Malta and Gozo and are now protected in terms of the law.
Superintendent for Cultural Heritage Kurt Farrugia confirmed with Times of Malta that authorities went to Refalo's house and found the artefact there.
"The competent authorities inspected the property to identify the artefact. The artefact has been identified and the proprietor is collaborating in full," Farrugia said.
However, he did not provide further details about the investigation, say whether the marker had been confiscated, or explain whether the SCH deems the possession to be legal.
It is also unclear who the 'competent authorities' are, and whether they searched for, or found, other such objects in the minister's property.
PN MP Karl Gouder said the discovery is worrying, not only because Refalo is a minister, but because he is former chairman of Heritage Malta.
Fellow candidate Justin Schembri agreed.
"We know that some of these stones were restored and put back in their original place, but was this one of them? Was this one bought? Was it found and remained unreported? Did someone restore it specifically for Anton Refalo?" Schembri asked.
"And it's insulting that it sits beside a swimming pool, exposed to the elements."
Meanwhile, independent candidate Arnold Cassola has written to parliament’s standards commissioner, asking him to investigate whether it was ethical for the minister to possess the artefact in his private residence “without informing the authorities”.
Anton Refalo's statement
In a statement later, Refalo said that he invited the Superintendence to inspect the artefact.
"Everyone knows of my love for Maltese cultural and historical heritage and I will continue to do my utmost to promote its preservation," he said, adding that he will cooperate fully with the Superintendence.