The former director-general of the Chamber for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Vince Farrugia, has died aged 77. 

Farrugia was a long-serving director of the business lobby, formerly known as the GRTU.

He also held several other positions including in the then National Tourism Organisation of Malta, the Malta Development Corporation and in banks. In 2008 he was given the National Order of Merit.

The Chamber of SMEs said Farrugia had turned the organisation into one of national importance and said he would always be remembered for defending the interests of small business owners. 

It offered its condolences to his wife, children and family. 

Mario Debono, who heads the pharmaceutical sector with the lobby group, described Farrugia as a “giant”. 

“Words cannot describe the stature of this man amongst small and medium business owners. He was a mentor to many, a safe harbour for the many small businesses that sought his help, a consensus builder on many an agreement with governments, and someone who was never afraid of any challenge, even the most onerous,” he said.

Farrugia had a short and unsuccessful stint in politics when he contested the 2009 MEP election on the Nationalist Party’s ticket. 

'He had a dynamic personality'

The deputy president of the Chamber of SMEs, Philip Fenech, also paid tribute to Farrugia who was instrumental in the growth of the small business lobby group over the years.

An economist by profession, Farrugia was passionate about economic affairs and was even decorated by the State for his contribution and his work for SMEs during his tenure, Fenech said when contacted.

He said he first got to know him in the 1980s when Farrugia was chairman of the National Tourism Organisation of Malta, now the Malta Tourism Authority, at a time when the country was building its tourism industry and was trying to diversify the markets.

At the time, Fenech was already involved in the tourism and entertainment industry and years down the line the two met again on the council of the General Retailers and Traders Union, now the Chamber of SMEs, when Farrugia became director-general.

"He had a dynamic personality. He was jovial but then straightened up when it was time to be serious. He had a wealth of experience, especially on the economy and a special focus on small businesses. He had a special way of understanding the needs and concerns of small businesses and was able to represent them perfectly with government. He has given a lot to the local business scene. He will certainly be missed," he said.

In 2010, Farrugia had been assaulted at his office by now-president of the Malta Developers’ Association, Sandro Chetcuti. 

Chetcuti had been charged with trying to kill Farrugia, but a year later the Attorney General had changed the charge to one of causing grievous injuries, after hearing conflicting evidence in court between medical experts regarding the nature of the sustained injuries.

Chetcuti had been found guilty of causing slight injuries to Farrugia. The court had also ordered the police to investigate Farrugia for perjury and subornation of witnesses in the criminal case against Chetcuti.

Aaron Bugeja, now a judge, found that there was enough prima facie evidence for this criminal case against Farrugia to start. However, he found that there was not enough evidence to take action against Farrugia for the fabrication of false evidence.

No police action had ever been taken. 

In a statement, the Nationalist Party expressed its condolences to Farrugia's relatives.

The Ministry for the Economy and Industry also expressed its condolences, recalling his "valuable contribution" to discussions between GRTU representatives and the government.

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