In asset declarations filed earlier this year, Senior Citizens Minister Michael Farrugia declared more than double the amount of money deposited in his bank accounts from 2019 to 2020, reaching a total of €219,036.7 spread over three accounts.
In 2019, Farrugia had declared €103,090 in one BOV account – the only one listed in his asset declarations that year. By 2020, Farrugia’s same BOV account had gone up to €124,002.48, an increase of €20,912.48.
In addition, in his 2020 declaration, he declared two new accounts at HSBC with deposits of €70.470.48 and ₤21,124.4 (€24,563.94).
The minister’s income was mainly bolstered by €14,084.90 in contributory pension, with his declared payroll remaining more or less consistent at just below €65,000. This does not account for the €115, 946.7 difference in his deposits from one year to the next.
In total, the minister declared an income of €78,984.16 in 2020, when compared to €64,297.56 in 2019.
The minister’s declared debt was also cut down by almost half within a year. In 2019, the minister had declared that he had debts related to a loan totalling €28,859.96. By 2020, this went down to €14,484.
Questions sent to the minister to explain the significant differences in his declaration of assets from one year to the next were not answered at the time of writing.
Farrugia’s fortunes are a part of the total €4.5 million in financial assets and cash declared by Cabinet members in 2020, some of whom are also rich in property assets.
For example, former and current Gozo ministers Anton Refalo and Clint Camilleri, respectively, declared over 10 properties each.
Prime minister Robert Abela was the only cabinet member who failed to declare his income for 2020. He declared three properties and a total amount of €339,000 in investments and savings.
In 2020, The Shift had revealed that the prime minister also owns a yacht estimated at at least €300,000, with maintenance costs running up to €20,000 a year.
The average amount of investments and savings declared by ministers and parliamentary secretaries in 2020 stands at €174,307.69.
An investigation conducted by The Shift News in 2019 spanning seven years’ worth of asset declarations had revealed that all the appointed ministers saw a steady increase in net worth and income since the Labour administration was elected in 2013.
The government’s department of information had issued a press release targeting The Shift’s investigation and labelling it “fake news”, publishing misleading information in an attempt to discredit it.
It had later backtracked and attempted to explain the increases reported by The Shift’s investigation as a “combination of salary improvements”.
In 2017, none of the ministers or parliamentary secretaries had tabled their asset declarations for 2016, the year that has become synonymous with the Panama Papers leak.
The asset declarations themselves are usually limited in scope, and exclude potentially crucial information such as the asset declarations of Cabinet members’ spouses and family members and missing details on companies they are listed as shareholders.