George Hyzler said on Tuesday he could not investigate a trip PN MP Jason Azzopardi took in 2017 as it predated the setting up of the Standards Commissioner’s office.
The inability of the commissioner to investigate any alleged wrongdoing prior to his appointment in 2018 has come in for criticism by the Council of Europe.
Azzopardi requested the investigation on Sunday following revelations by newspaper Illum that the Tumas Group had funded his stay at the Tel Aviv Hilton.
The MP has denied wrongdoing, arguing he bought Tumas Group’s Ray Fenech silverware to cancel out any obligation brought about by the free stay.
While refusing to weigh in on the specifics of the case, Hyzler said that an MP reciprocating a gift did not exempt him from the obligations found under the parliamentary code of ethics.
Hyzler said he was making this observation independently of whether it was true Azzopardi had reciprocated the hospitality with a gift, and whether the gift was of an equivalent value.
In a five-page report, Hyzler labelled Azzopardi’s offer to place himself at the Standards Commissioner’s disposition for an investigation as “superfluous”, as it is the law that places all MPs under his remit for such probes.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, PN leader Bernard Grech that he had asked his parliamentary group to inform him whether they had received any gifts or favours that could pose a potential conflict or debt.
Azzopardi has suspended himself from the PN’s parliamentary group pending an internal probe into his behaviour.
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