The great tax diversion

Rosianne Cutajar acted as a broker in a €3.1 million property deal and took a commission from a man accused of being involved in the corruption of high-ranking members of government in return for her part in the deal. This is what the whole sleazy scandal is about, and not about whether or not she declared that commission to the taxman.

The tax implications are a peripheral issue that must be tackled by the relevant authorities, but it’s not the reason Standards Commissioner George Hyzler was asked to probe Cutajar.

After his lengthy investigation into whether she’d broken rules and contravened the ethical obligations imposed on ministers and MPs, Hyzler concluded that she had. She had indeed coordinated the property sale and accepted a cash fee for doing so.

It’s important to keep these facts in mind when reading news reports or, indeed, following the live feed from the meetings themselves. Because Rosianne and her filibustering lieutenants, Glenn Bedingfield and Edward Zammit Lewis – supported by the worst, most spineless speaker Malta’s parliament has ever had – are trying very hard to shift public attention away from the serious malfeasance Hyzler reported and directing it instead toward something they believe many people will judge less harshly: non-declaration, or late declaration, of taxable income.

They’re doing this by insisting to the point of hysteria that the main issue is whether she declared that money or not – and trying to claim that even if she did not, it’s hardly a mortal sin. After all, they banged on, the leader of the Opposition himself did exactly the same thing, if not worse, and he’s not being hauled in front of the committee or publicly crucified for it.

But whether Cutajar declared the cash to the taxman or not is not the issue. Her problems stem from her decision to get involved in a property deal and to approach a man known for doling out expensive gifts, favours and holidays to key government figures and officials, and to then accept cash from this individual as well as from the seller, and to then consistently and blatantly lie about it.

In addition, when the deal eventually fell through and the seller wanted back the €90,000 he’d paid to her and her partner in this crime as a brokerage fee, they both refused point blank to return the money.

While Cutajar’s acceptance of money from the seller is a large part of the accusations against her, her relationship with and payments from accused murderer and former casino boss Yorgen Fenech are alarming on a different level.

Fenech, currently in jail charged with masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the owner of 17 Black – a vehicle for money-laundering and the payment of illegal kickbacks to corrupt politicians – gave Cutajar an envelope full of cash, which included a €9,000 euro “gift” for herself.

Most newspapers refer to this sum as a “birthday present” but it was not a birthday present. Her response to him, according to the exchange of texts that was discussed, was “you didn’t have to give me that, you could have just bought me a birthday present”.

Those words make it clear it wasn’t a birthday present. It was a “gift” with a very different purpose, one that Fenech appears to have made after a conversation in which Cutajar bitched about her supposedly close associate Charles Farrugia being a “pig” and not wanting to share his cut with her.

And even if it had been a birthday present, the rules are very clear. Ministers aren’t allowed to accept gifts, even if they declare them or, indeed, leave them to the state, as disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat apparently said he would do with the €20,000 Bvlgari watch and bottles of Chateau Petrus wine he got from the very same Fenech. Muscat too, was found by Hyzler to be in breach of the code of ethics for having accepted those gifts.

Fenech has been named in a host of trading in influence scandals featuring ministers or government officials. For example, former Malta Gaming Authority CEO Heathcliff Farrugia, who has been charged with colluding with Fenech to cover up alleged money laundering breaches in the latter’s casino operations.

And former Planning Authority Chairman and current Head of the Malta Tourism Authority Johann Buttigieg, who was exposed as having private WhatsApp chats with Fenech about doing business together.

Plus former chairman of the Malta Financial Services Authority Joseph Cuschieri, who resigned ahead of an investigation into a free trip to Las Vegas he took with Fenech in 2018. Edwina Licari, then a senior official at the MGA and now working at the MFSA, accompanied them too, as did Charlene Bianco Farrugia, then personal assistant of disgraced former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

And let’s not forget former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta, who went on football jaunts with Fenech and is accused of stymying investigations into Caruana Galizia’s murder in order to protect Fenech, as well as with leaking confidential police intelligence about the probe to the actual suspect himself.

Most of the above, as well as Muscat, Schembri and a host of other government ministers and officials, were available on tap to Yorgen Fenech throughout, exchanging WhatsApp messages, going to cosy Sunday lunches at his “ranch” and finding it “hard to say no” to him.

This is a man known to bribe politicians: his Dubai company 17 Black was set up specifically to channel kickbacks in the corrupt Electrogas deal to companies owned by former minister Konrad Mizzi and Schembri himself.

So, when we see the yelling and posturing by Bedingfield and Zammit Lewis, the over-emphasis on the tax aspect of the whole sordid matter – which after all, will be investigated by the tax chief Marvin Gaerty as a separate matter – it’s becomes clear that this was very deliberate, designed to deceive the public into focusing on a peripheral misdeed in order to divert attention away from the grave wrongdoing at its heart.

Bribery and corruption have been considered crimes in western societies since as far back as the Roman Empire. The shenanigans of Bedingfield, Zammit Lewis and their accomplice, Speaker Anglu Farrugia, are intended to muddy the waters and bamboozle the public into “missing” the corruption aspect of Cutajar’s misdeeds.

Indeed, if there was ever the slightest doubt about it, this week’s Parliamentary Committee on Standards in Public Life meetings proved that Malta is being governed by a gaggle of delinquents who seem to have been raised in a sewer, devoid of anything remotely resembling honesty, integrity or even the most basic civility.

The sinister implications of this inexplicable, though predictable, defence of such a serious breach of standards are truly alarming. The villains of this piece go beyond Cutajar and her seedy little sidekick, who now claims all the commission money was paid to him alone and that he will pay all the taxes due on it – despite opening himself up to potential perjury charges by doing so.

By blocking Hyzler’s report, despite clear evidence of Cutajar’s misconduct, muddying the waters around what Cutajar’s wrongdoing actually was, and helping her get away with them without censure, Bedingfield, Zammit Lewis and Farrugia have made themselves complicit. Don’t let them get away with trying to deflect the truth.

This is not a quibble about unpaid tax: this is a potential corruption, bribery, trading in influence and cronyism scandal. We’ve long known that this is a government of delinquents: this shameful episode is just another sad reminder that the crooks are still in charge.

                           
                               
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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
15 days ago

When international watchdogs follow what is happening in the Maltese parliament and how the corrupt government defends crooks, they realise how right FATF was to impose grey-listing on Malta and this is only the beginning.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
15 days ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

Unfortunately very true?

Some would unhesitatingly say ‘Yes’ – others will simply shrug grey-listing off with vociferous ‘what-about-isms’. Until, that is, they themselves will start to feel the pinch.

As a ‘foresight-endowed sage’ once (in)famously concluded, “the future beckons!”

James
James
15 days ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

Yet again a brilliant synopsis by Blanche and we can only hope that the eyes and ears of the FATF and Moneyval remain firmly focused on the charades being played out for domestic consumption.

Quite how these untouchables think they can continue to get away with trying to con the rest of the watching world just reinforces the belief that they have reached the conclusion they are legends in their own lifetime.. staggering arrogance and ignorance in equal measure!

Eduard Azzopardi
Eduard Azzopardi
15 days ago
Reply to  saviour mamo

Boobby’s wish to become the “best” in the world is on the way, soon, we will be the first Black listed in EU.

John
John
15 days ago

What is the FIAU waiting for to investigate this perfect case of money laundering? Hello, Kenneth Farrugia. Hello Alfred Zammit. Are you there?

James
James
14 days ago
Reply to  John

The reason that nobody wants to take action is because the moment they do, it is an admission that they have been complicit in the cover ups orchestrated by the untouchables at the top table.
So many of these scandals have been in the public domain for years thanks to the efforts of Daphne, the ICIJ etc with their Panama and Paradise Papers, Luanda Leaks and the other investigative journalists yet as Pieter Omtzigt pointed out, not a single successful prosecution to date,
It can only move forward once investigations led by independent experts from outside Malta are brought in. Too many in Malta have too much to hide for a cure to be found from within.

D. Borg
D. Borg
15 days ago

Thanks for spelling it out – as even the Opposition has failed miserably to focus on the blatant breach of ethics (at best) and outright corruption (at worse).

A politician’s tax affairs, should at least be treated no different from any Joe Public, whereas Joe Public cannot be in breach of (politician’s/public officer’s) ethics unless he/she holds such office.

Another point on ethics breach (at best), is Ms.Cutajar’s “intervention” supposedly on Malta’s behalf in the Council of Europe, which was discussing Omtzigit’s report on Malta’s handling of the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, without disclosing the fact (using her own words) ‘very close..’ to Mr. Fenech.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
15 days ago
Reply to  D. Borg

‘ Opposition has failed miserably to focus on the blatant breach of ethics (at best) and outright corruption ‘
This was due to the unfortunate happening of Bernard Grech tax affairs,
This was Bernard’s folly and bully bobby was fed with all the information within the DAR CENTRALI

D. Borg
D. Borg
15 days ago
Reply to  Henry s Pace

Beg to disagree.
The issue is breach of ethics or corruption/trading in influence by a politician/public officer (whilst in office).
The former (ethics) may be related to administrative tax affairs, but the latter (corruption/TII) can never be whitewashed by a tax payment.
Criminal acts are not subject to tax, but restitution of illicit gains, hefty penalties and/or incarceration.

viv
viv
15 days ago

Accurate, factual, faithful reporting. Thanks to Gatt and The Shift.

Robert Agius
Robert Agius
15 days ago

The €9,000 just happens to be 10% of the senserija of €90,000. it was a bonus to his mistress – over and above the senserija and any other ‘services’ procured.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
15 days ago

Borrowing Daphne’s words :
The situation is desperate .
Crooks are everywhere (even in parliament usurped by corrupt MPs.

Last edited 15 days ago by Henry s Pace
Andrew
Andrew
15 days ago

And what about VAT?!!! Why is it never mentioned? When I was a broker I always had to pay 18% VAT.

D. Borg
D. Borg
15 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

You’re falling in the (VAT) diversion.

adriang
adriang
15 days ago

Spot on!

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
15 days ago

Cutajar smelt the package of the Euro at the restaurant rather the smell of the food.

carmelo borg
15 days ago

FATF PLEASE NOTE

carlo
carlo
15 days ago

The reason that we refer this HMIEG to the EU is not because we are traitors, but because the whole lot of the MUVUMENT KORROTT are the REAL TRAITORS, assassins and fraudsters. We hope that David and Roberta will do their duty and report this HMIEG to the EU. We voted to be members as we (the honest citizens) DO NOT TRUST this corrupt muvument, be it led by the artful corrupt dodger, his ex. consultant and any other fo the rest of the ,uvument KORROTT.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
15 days ago

When tax chief Marvin Gaerty appears before this committee he would just say that from an emaail sent nu farrugia it-tikka received by the commissioner for revenue states that all the money would be declared in his income tax as his own.
The conclusion would be by the two labour MPs and the stupid speaker would then say that the matter is closed and the commissioner of standards was completely in his assertions.

Last edited 15 days ago by Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
14 days ago

When the commission for revenue would appear before this, Gerety would jus say that following the e-mail sent by farrrugia it-tikka rosianne does not appear that she received any form of commission-senserija.
Thjs comedy continues – TITILFUIIEX.
The speaker would declare that there is no case against cutajar.
Then as an aftermath the commissioner of standards would be considering his resignation

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
13 days ago

Acting as a courier to pass thousands of Euros in CASH under a restaurant table, is a prototype transaction in the basics of MONEY LAUNDERING. ALL parties involved directly or indirectly, including the banks who allowed the withdrawal of the funds and the ultimate deposit of these funds, should qualify as complicit subjects for investigations by the FIAU/Police into potential money laundering crimes, punishable by long term prison sentences.
If the law enforcement officers of these Institutions, fail to investigate, they too could qualify as complicit in covering up money laundering crimes.
Edward Zammit Lewis, Glen Bedingfield and Anglu Farrugia, and not least any possible Government ‘prompters’ like the Prime Minister, should also be investigated for any possible complicity in diverting the substance of this transaction, to mitigate the deserved punishment.
As regards taxation, the only point of substance, is establishing and following up the source of funds of the ‘sponsor’ of the tax payment, as well as ensuring that the brokerage fees received by Rosianne Cutajar are adjusted in her personal tax declaration.
As regards the request to the Standards Commissioner, to summon Yorgen Fenech for questioning, my question is: “can any credibility be given to a witness with ‘doubtful credentials?’.

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