Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando this morning issued a statement to explain his position after the police and the Attorney General's Office decided there was no case against him over the Mistra issue.
Dr Pullicino Orlando said he was issuing his statement "to finally clarify a number of facts which, over the past three and a half months have been twisted beyond recognition and blown out of proportion".
"Quotations of what I am supposed to have said have, over this period, been circulating from one media spot to another, interpreted and reinterpreted and have reached the general public, in many distorted ways and forms."
In his statement, Dr Pullicino Orlando said:
"In the final days of February, I was informed by sources within the Malta Labour Party who were appalled by the negative campaigning which typified Dr. Alfred Sant’s approach to the 2008 Elections, that I was to be the focus of a concerted attack in the last week before the General Elections. I was also told that this attack was going to be planned and based around a project which was planned for a piece of land I own in Mistra which was rented out to third parties.
"Let me repeat what I have been saying all along: I do not have any direct or indirect involvement or participation in the ownership or operation of the then planned project. I do own the land in question and I was fully aware that the applicant had applied for a permit for an underground lavatory and an open-air dance floor with a platform less than two metres high. I had in fact no difficulty stating this in an article published in the Times of March the 1st. 2008, even before Dr. Alfred Sant made his grand expose’ after having given me the slip twice. This was the information available to me on the day that Dr. Sant gave his impromptu press conference on site at Mistra.
"At a later stage, I was shown copies of the relative detailed plans. These showed that the project basically consisted in a paved area of about 750 m2 which would have taken in at full stretch about five hundred patrons (therefore in any event a far cry from the 4000-8000 claimed by Sant). There were no structures other than the platform which was less than 2m high with timber flooring and a focused sound system was going to be used which was designed to totally eliminate the possibility of sound pollution.
"During his press conference at Mistra Dr. Alfred Sant in clear and unequivocal terms claimed that this case was a clear case of corruption and that money had changed hands. I filed a libel case against him immediately. On the same day and at the same place I also challenged him to go to the Police Commissioner with these allegations if he considered them to have any basis of truth. He only did so three days later in a clear effort to save face after having backed off, once again, from facing me with his allegations during a PBS recording.
"Extensive police investigations which I cooperated with fully have now made the reason behind Dr. Alfred Sant’s fear of confrontation crystal clear. His allegations of clear corruption and of money having changed hands were based on utter lies. They were a desperate last ditch attempt at scoring political points by vilifying someone he knew to be innocent of and extraneous to his accusations.
"Separate to the issue of these trumped up allegations, I would like to take the opportunity to clarify a further two points.
"My words have been twisted in such a way as to give people the impression that I said that I did not know the person I rented the land out to. Justifiably people have found this hard to believe. I never said that. I did state that I did not know the applicant who effectively is a completely different person. This is not a play with words – far from it - as it subsequently emerged that the leaseholder’s decision to ask another person, not known to me, to submit his application, was the result of a grave fact.
"When I asked the leaseholder why he got someone else to apply in his name he explained that he did this to avoid the attention of someone who is also in the entertainment business who had sabotaged another similar application of his in the past. The landlord feared that if this competitor got to know about this application he would be likely to initiate a campaign which would be aimed at stopping any potential competitor in his tracks and since I was indirectly involved he would prey on this factor and find elements in the MLP who were willing to help him out.
"I would also like to state particularly to all those who have been attacking me in the past three and a half months simply because they knew I was in no position to freely rebut their attacks that I never, repeat NEVER, said that I knew nothing about the project. I stated that I did not know the exact details of the project and this is what I reconfirm.
"The leaseholder expressed an interest in the lease principally because in the immediate vicinity Full Development Permit had been granted for a restaurant; wedding hall and recording studio. I had my own doubts on the possibility of this, since my own previous applications for a water cistern had been turned down. The leaseholder however indicated that he would proceed with an application for an Outline Development Permit and it was only after this was granted that the lease agreement was signed – and even then, this was made conditional to the granting of the actual Full Development Permit. This condition was covered in detail in the agreement for the understandable protection of the leaseholder’s position. With the initial Outline Development application, I received a standard notice from the leaseholder’s architect advising that the application had been submitted. I only saw the Full Development plans for the first time when I was summoned to police headquarters.
"As regards to my approaching MEPA officials to discuss this application I have already declared that at one stage I had approached the person who was in charge of liaising with MPs from both sides of the house and the general public when it came to MEPA related difficulties. I have a number of times in the past approached this person for a number of other, unrelated cases. This was done when the leaseholder had asked me to check why his limited-scale application was being held up for such a long time and I told him that I would contact the aforementioned person to check where it had gotten to. Such enquiries are often requested of MPs in the normal course of events and I repeat that I would do this for anyone who approached me with a MEPA related problem
"Following Dr. Sant’s unhappy attempt at presenting this as a case of clear corruption and of money having changed hands right on the eve of the General Elections, the Police authorities carried out their investigations over this entire time. After having myself gone to the Police Commissioner to forward a copy of the lease agreement before the general elections, I was summoned by the investigators and duly interrogated in detail. I have striven throughout not to comment as far as possible in order not to be seen in any way as even attempting to influence these investigations.
"I know for a fact that the police investigations were also at one point expected to focus on a number of e-mails which were indicative of alleged exchanges between a prominent businessman and a high ranking labour party official and which dealt specifically with the Mistra issue and which, if proved authentic, would be indicative of a rather unholy alliance between these two gentlemen. I would like to clarify that when these documents came in my possession I immediately formally passed them on to the Police Commissioner and asked him to investigate them as regards their authenticity or otherwise first, and as regards their content afterwards..
"It was only after several days that I got to know that they were being freely circulated via the internet. It was interesting to note that the high ranking Labour Party official mentioned in them only issued a statement denying their veracity after a number of weeks.
"These months have been very trying and difficult for my family and I thank them for their unstinting support. I would also like to thank the numerous friends and constituents who never stopped believing in me notwithstanding the fact that sections of the media were doing their utmost to destroy my credibility. I would like to give a special mention to Dr. Alex Perici Calascione whose wisdom proved to be invaluable. I would also like to take the opportunity to show my appreciation to my colleagues within the Nationalist Party who stood by me through thick and thin.
"I was often asked, during the past months how I managed to stay calm despite what I was going through. The answer was simple and has now been also substantiated by the thorough police investigations. I was firmly convinced that I had not acted illegally in any manner whatsoever.
"I am of course fully aware that, apart from the legal dimension, there is also a public dimension arising from my political role. Throughout the hectic and trying last days of a short but very intense and tiring electoral campaign, when this last-ditch strategy was hurled my way by Dr. Sant, I reacted immediately and decidedly to the allegations of corruption and exchange of money – and let it not be forgotten that those were the allegations made at that time. I was determined to confront Dr. Sant face to face, so that I would be able to rebut them there and then. It is Dr, Sant who chose not to give the electorate this opportunity. "
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us