The scheme allows a private loan of €10,000 for 10 years against an interest payment of four per cent.The scheme allows a private loan of €10,000 for 10 years against an interest payment of four per cent.

The Nationalist Party is refusing to say how many individuals have loaned it €10,000 as part of its ċedoli (loans) scheme.

PN leader Simon Busuttil told The Sunday Times of Malta the scheme had raised almost €3 million in just a few months, describing it a success.

Under the scheme, the party enters into a private agreement with individuals who lend it €10,000 for 10 years against an interest payment of four per cent.

However, when asked for more information about the scheme, a spokesman for the PN insisted further details would be provided “at the right time”.

Times of Malta sought details about the number of individual lenders, whether they were allowed to give the party multiple loans and whether their names would be made public.

The scheme affords anonymity to lenders and has been criticised for going against the spirit of the political party financing law that makes it incumbent on parties to publish the names of individuals who donate €7,000 or more.

In the face of the latest controversy around pollution by fish farms, the Prime Minister on Sunday asked whether Dr Busuttil’s reaction to the Planning Authority’s dilly-dallying – the Opposition leader had described the two-week postponement of permit withdrawal as ‘fair enough’ – was a result of donations made by the industry to the PN.

I won’t get too comfy with businessmen or their money

But no answer was forthcoming from the PN about whether any of the fish farm owners or persons linked to the industry had contributed to the ċedoli scheme.

Indeed, none of the questions posed by this newspaper were answered, including what the financial net benefit was for the party from the scheme.

Dr Busuttil has gone on record saying the scheme helped the party refinance old debt which had a higher repayment interest rate. This means the €3 million the ċedoli raised allowed the party to benefit from lower repayments.

The spokesman said the scheme was “helping the party clean up its finances and free it from the kind of political patronage that has engulfed Muscat’s government”.

In his interview with The Sunday Times of Malta, Dr Busuttil insisted he was in “no businessman’s pocket” and welcomed Labour’s criticism of the ċedoli scheme as free publicity. “I will never engage in pre-electoral deals. I won’t get too comfy with businessmen or their money,” he said, adding the scheme was in line with legislation.

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