Economy Minister Chris Cardona has denied that he asked Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi to help a Paceville entertainment boss take over part of St George’s bay public beach.

Footage broadcast on French TV  last month showed Luke Chetcuti, who runs the Hugo’s chain of bars, restaurants and hotels, boast about a conversation with Dr Cardona about taking over part of the beach.

Chris Cardona speaking on Friday. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Mr Chetcuti also claimed in the video that during a meal with Dr Cardona, the Economy Minister messaged Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi on the matter, telling him “they [Hugo’s] always help us and we have to get them part of the beach”.

When confronted by Times of Malta on Friday, Dr Cardona insisted he did not message Dr Mizzi.

“No, not at all, no, no…,” he said.

Pressed to say whether he had intervened to help the Paceville chain attempt to take over part of the public beach, Dr Cardona was adamant he did not.

In the video, which was filmed discreetly, Mr Chetcuti, the son of murdered entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti, complains to a woman about competitor InterContinental’s beach concession.

No, not at all, no, no…

“Last week I was having dinner with Chris (Cardona), the minister for the economy,” he is recorded saying.

“And he texted the tourism minister (Konrad Mizzi) saying: we must help the Chetcuti family.”

While denying contacting Dr Mizzi, the Economy Minister was more upfront about his meetings with Mr Chetcuti, telling Times of Malta the Paceville mogul “has a number of issues”.

As the Economy Minister, he said, he “meets up with businessmen all the time”.

On whether Mr Chetcuti had requested part of St George’s bay beach during any of these meetings, Dr Cardona would not say.

“I will not comment on individual ideas and thoughts of businessmen,” he said.

“It is done privately and confidentially and I will keep the privacy and confidentiality of entrepreneurs.”

Luke Chetcuti was filmed as he discussed his plans for St George's Bay. Video: Rutube

When it was pointed out the matter involved a public beach and was therefore of public interest, Dr Cardona countered by insisting the issue was “not within his remit”.

“If he asked or ever asks I will direct him to the right authorities,” he said.

When the programme, by French investigative channel Enquête Exclusive, was first aired, the Economy Minister did not directly answer whether he had contacted his cabinet colleague to discuss the issue.

A spokesman for Dr Mizzi said at the time that the claim of political influence relating to a beach concession was totally unfounded since the Tourism Minister did not award land concessions. 

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