Former parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon’s employment as a consultant was based on his skills as a lawyer, Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation chairman Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said yesterday.

“After evaluation, we saw that the experience and competence that Michael Falzon has as a lawyer would fit the corporation’s purposes, particularly in various strategic decisions we will be taking in the near future,” he said.

The Times of Malta reported on Wednesday that Dr Falzon has been employed by the State entity after resigning from political office in January in the wake of the Gaffarena scandal.

Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi said Dr Falzon was employed following a decision by the board. He has been engaged as a consultant on a “term contract”. There was no public call for applications for the position.

Dr Falzon will be receiving an annual €36,500 salary for his full-time position.

When contacted earlier this week, Dr Falzon confirmed his employment with the corporation but it was not clear whether he would have to pay back his lucrative early retirement package.

Dr Falzon had the option of returning to his former job at Bank of Valletta’s legal office after resigning. This would have meant reimbursing the bank part of the €260,000 early retirement payment he received when becoming parliamentary secretary in 2014.

He had benefited from an “ad hoc” arrangement made with him by the bank that also included the option to return by the end of this legislature. BOV declined to comment on whether Dr Falzon would have to pay back the retirement package, insisting it had already commented extensively on the matter in the past.

Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi also declined to comment on the matter saying this was a matter to be raised with Dr Falzon.

Repeated attempts to contact Dr Falzon yesterday proved unsuccessful by the time of writing.

The former parliamentary secretary had once been responsible for planning but resigned after a damning report by the Auditor General.

The report, prompted after this newspaper uncovered the scandal, had looked into how businessman Mark Gaffarena had acquired €3.4 million in land and cash from the government for the expropriation of half a building in Valletta valued at some €900,000.

The NAO had concluded there was collusion between officials at the Government Property Department, Dr Falzon and Mr Gaffarena.

Dr Falzon has denied any wrongdoing and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said his resignation was a sign that Dr Falzon was shouldering political responsibility.

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