Malta Development Association head Sandro Chetcuti confirmed that businesses gave donations to the Labour Party during its fundraising marathons, however, his donations and the ones that he knew of always were “above board”.
Testifying before an independent inquiry board, Chetcuti said developers approached the Labour Party “after the Nationalist Party rejected their proposals” prior to the 2013 general election. “In 2013 I was a bit hurt by the Nationalist Party,” he said, adding that this changed after former opposition leader Simon Busuttil issued a public apology.
Today was the sixth hearing of the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was murdered in 2017, where an independent board is tasked to investigate whether her murder could have been prevented.
Chetcuti was also asked by Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi whether he was aware of any donations amounting to €1 million or whether anyone donated money in return for a favour from the government in relation to a government project. For the second question, Chetcuti added that if that were the case “(he) would have never approached there again”.
He told the board that he understood the need for donations and likened it to donations being given to the developers’ association, which were sometimes “just enough to get by”. “If you don’t give donations, nothing is going to move forward,” he said.
Last week, during a separate sitting, Speaker of the House of Representatives Anglu Farrugia claimed that Chetcuti had an office on the fourth floor of the Labour Party Headquarters in 2013, while, Farrugia, then party deputy leader had no access to that floor.
Today, Chetcuti denied ever having been on the fourth floor prior to the 2013 general elections and said he instead would meet Joseph Muscat, then opposition leader, on the third floor where Muscat’s office allegedly was situated. Asked about the relationship he had with Muscat, Chetcuti said he was “voluntarily” a “facilitator between Muscat and a number of people in the business community”. They would mainly discuss policies, and swore under oath that “in (his) presence there were no underhanded deals”. “I would have left otherwise,” he said.
The board also asked Chetcuti to specify the business people he introduced to Muscat and he denied ever introducing anyone linked to scandals such as Cafe Premier, Marco Gaffarena or Tumas Group as he was more likely to introduce “medium-sized businesses” to Muscat. He revealed that once he was in the presence of both Muscat and people involved with developer Charles Polidano “during an event organised on Polidano’s own initiative.”
Chetcuti went on to describe the fourth floor, which he said he only visited after the general elections, as “a big boardroom, and three or four cubicles, departments or offices”.
Asked about his relationship with former minister Konrad Mizzi after the emergence of a photo of Chetcuti embracing Mizzi last weekend, despite Mizzi having allegations of criminality surrounding him, Chetcuti said he “judges people by their actions” and that they “did a lot of good work together”.
Former acting police commissioner Ray Zammit also testified today. Zammit took on the role of acting commissioner for a mere six months, between the beginning of July 2014 and December of the same year.
Zammit was the third of five police commissioners to hold the position under Muscat’ government. He held the position between Peter Paul Zammit and Michael Cassar, who testified in front of the inquiry board last week.
Zammit was replaced by Cassar after the former was found guilty of “gross negligence” by an inquiry board which was set up to investigate a shooting incident involving the driver of former Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia, Paul Sheehan.
He told the board that, during his time as acting commissioner, there were “frequent patrols in the vicinity and close to the entrance of Caruana Galizia’s residence”. There never was any evaluation or assessment linked to the danger of Caruana Galizia, adding that he never “received a request” for tighter protection.
Asked why he was placed as acting police commissioner rather than police commissioner, Zammit said he still “doesn’t know until today.” Zammit also confirmed that he had familial relations to Mallia.
He also said that he had never received any reports from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit during his tenure, adding that “there were no reported incidents of money laundering to investigate”.