Prime Minister Robert Abela won't make any decisions on the future of Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar until the ethics commissioner has concluded an investigation into her involvement in a controversial property deal.
Speaking to Times of Malta outside the Auberge de Castille on Monday, Abela said he would take a decision on Cutajar once all the facts had been established by an independent body.
Standards Commissioner George Hyzler has been asked to investigate a Times of Malta report into a 2019 property deal which Cutajar allegedly brokered with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.
“I am informed that the commissioner for standards in public life shall be investigating and so when the commissioner arrives at his conclusion I will be in a better position to take decisions," he said.
"If she received the money - something, from what I read yesterday, she is denying - then that would be one matter. This will be determined by the commissioner for standards. We respect the decisions of institutions."
Although the deal ultimately fell through, Cutajar, at the time a backbench MP, had allegedly already been paid a €46,500 commission by the property vendor, Joe Camilleri.
Calls to resign
Documents seen by Times of Malta show Camilleri is now chasing the junior minister for the money that he allegedly handed to her in a bag during a meal at a Valletta restaurant.
Cutajar disputes the claims and has insisted she has always acted ethically.
Asked if he believed Cutajar, Abela again said that he would await the conclusion of the ethics probe.
Asked if it was acceptable, in principle, for a member of his parliamentary group to offer property brokerage services and accept cash in return, Abela said he understood that Cutajar was refuting the claim.
Abela also hit out at Opposition leader Bernard Grech following his calls for Cutajar to step down or be fired by the prime minister.
He described Grech as a "serial tax evader", and “the master” of not declaring income, and said it was bemusing that the PN leader was now taking issue with claims the same had been done by a member of the government benches. His comment was a reference to the PN leader's tax irregularities.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party said that more than 24 hours since the news first broke, the prime minister had still not taken any action against Cutajar.
Public inquiry impact
The ill-fated property deal also has a baring on the public inquiry that is charged with looking into whether the state played a role in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Lawyer Pierre Lofaro had represented the owner of the property in question and is married to Abigail Lofaro, one of the three judges presiding over the inquiry.
On Monday the judge issued a declaration stating that she had consulted the other members of the inquiry and saw no reason to recuse herself.
Abela said the report into the property deal was meant to undermine the integrity of the public inquiry.
The prime minister has himself been at loggerheads with the inquiry after it failed to meet a deadline he had set it for earlier this month.
Despite this, he appealed on Monday for the press not to "facilitate attacks" on the public inquiry.
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