Labour leader Robert Abela on Monday confirmed meeting Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli earlier this month but insisted a controversial development that was approved last week had not been discussed.  

He also "absolutely denied" claims that he or other Labour Party officials had received donations during the event. 

Abela was reacting to media reports that he was the guest of honour at an event organised by Portelli. 

Robert Abela speaks about meeting Portelli. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

The dinner, first reported by The Shift News, took place at the Ta’ Frenc restaurant in Xagħra and came just before the Planning Authority approved a controversial development application involving Portelli in Sannat.  

On Friday, the Planning Authority voted to approve Portelli’s application to build a block of apartments just 300 metres from the cliff edge in Sannat, Gozo.

Objectors have noted how the application was one of three that together would create a massive 125-apartment development in a sensitive area. The PA chair meekly told objectors that it was not her remit to assess such 'salami-slicing' tactics. 

Shortly after the vote was taken, PN leader Bernard Grech questioned whether Abela had anything to do with the permit and described it as an obscenity. 

“Robert Abela, could it be that in recent days you have been in meetings which you have influenced or have been influenced by?” Grech had asked at a PN gathering last week.  

Abela denies donation claims

Abela on Monday told reporters he “categorically denies” that Portelli’s application was discussed. 

He also denied that he, or anyone accompanying him at the meeting, had accepted any donations from Portelli or other Gozitan businesspeople at the meeting. 

Abela said that the meeting was similar to many others that he has with people from all sectors of society. 

He then lashed out at Grech accusing him of building his home illegally and of only regularising it once he had entered the race to be PN leader.

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