Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar exchanged thousands of messages with Yorgen Fenech at a time when she was publicly dismissing calls to investigate suspected corruption linked to him.
Transcripts of more than 2,200 WhatsApp chats between Cutajar and Fenech were published by former Malta Book Council chair Mark Camilleri on Tuesday.
The chats, which stretch between June and September 2019, suggest the two were intimate and on very close terms. They also show how Cutajar was in regular contact with the Tumas business heir at a time when he was facing increased scrutiny for being the owner of secret company 17 Black.
Weeks after the chat transcript ends, Fenech would go on to be arrested and charged with complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. That case remains ongoing.
In June of that year, Cutajar stood up in the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly to criticise a reference to 17 Black and other corruption cases in a report drawn up by Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt about Caruana Galizia’s death and the rule of law in Malta.
Less than two months later, the Labour MP would receive a €9,000 cut from Fenech for helping him broker a property deal in Mdina.
But the incident led her to be reprimanded by the Council of Europe's ethics committee, which found her to have been in "serious breach" for not declaring a conflict of interest, and cost her a spot in cabinet, as she was forced to step aside as a parliamentary secretary.
The Standards Commissioner later recommended that Cutajar be investigated by the tax department and said that Cutajar had given conflicting testimony on the matter.
Attempts to contact Cutajar for comment on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Camilleri released the chat transcripts one day before a libel case that the MP filed against him was due to continue in court.
The MP is suing Camilleri after he claimed in his book A Rent Seeker’s Paradise that she had an affair with Fenech to get a leg up in her political career and that she had received “corrupt money” from him.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Camilleri said that he had intended to present the chats to court on Wednesday, but that someone had since managed to steal the files that he had stored on his website, hidden from public view. He subsequently decided to publish the chats.