Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis cannot explain how he declared earning three times the salary paid to MPs in 2018 while failing to list income from a number of direct orders he received from the government in the same year.
According to the tax return presented to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue for the 2018 year of assessment, Zammit Lewis declared earning €67,000 from the House of Representatives despite MPs being paid just over €21,000 a year.
Zammit Lewis, who did not occupy a Cabinet role at the time, was also given a number of direct orders in the same year and yet this income was not listed in the same tax declaration.
Zammit Lewis, at the time an MP and a practising lawyer, also declared earning €20,667 from his legal profession.
Asked last October to explain his tax declaration for 2018, a spokesman for the Justice Minister took two months to provide an answer, as he said that he had to look at the actual documents.
When the reply to The Shift’s questions finally arrived, it was incomprehensible.
Confirming that during 2018 the Justice Minister did not form part of Cabinet and was only an MP, the spokesman could not explain how Zammit Lewis declared earning close to €67,000 from parliament.
“In 2018, Dr Zammit Lewis only had the Honoraria that covered his respective roles of Member of Parliament, Chairperson of the Foreign and European Affairs Committee and Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Appointments. The remuneration for these roles does not amount to the sum you mentioned (i.e. €66,837),” he told The Shift.
He failed to explain why the Justice Minister had declared that amount as income in his tax return. He also failed to explain why no income from the various government jobs he was given was included in the tax return.
Zammit Lewis was Tourism Minister until mid-2017 when failed to get re-elected to parliament on his own steam and only managed to return through a casual election after the polls. This made him miss his Cabinet re-appointment and had to wait on the backbench until a new vacancy arose.
Despite losing his ministerial salary (€54,000), he was given lucrative government contracts when Joseph Muscat was at the helm – his childhood friend and frequent travel companion. The direct orders included €1,000 a week from Identity Malta and €4,333 a month as a consultant to the Minister for Water and Energy.
Notices in the Government Gazette at the time also showed that together with the sister of Minister Miriam Dalli, Veronique, Zammit Lewis was also given a €45,000 legal consultancy at the National Development and Social Fund, responsible for the cash derived from the sale of passports. He was also made a consultant at the Lands Authority.
Income from all these jobs was not included in Zammit Lewis’s tax declaration.
His wife, an established notary by profession, declared earning just €19,597 during the same year.
With some €5,600 additional income from rents, the Zammit Lewis couple declared a joint income of €112,701 in 2018.
Zammit Lewis, now justice minister, was among the Cabinet Ministers who defended the Muscat administration.
Only a few weeks ago, Zammit Lewis hit the headlines once again as Lovin Malta revealed that in 2014 he had gone on a family holiday with the Muscats and stayed at a French Hilton Hotel owned by the Tumas Group.
Asked repeatedly to state whether they had paid for the lodging at the Hilton, Zammit Lewis did not reply. He did say he was sure he had paid for the flights.
It is not yet known whether the expensive lodging was a gift to Muscat and Zammit Lewis which, according to the code of ethics, should have been declared.
The revelations came after similar disclosures about Justice Shadow Minister Jason Azzopardi who had received similar free lodging at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv.