Newly re-elected MP Rosianne Cutajar should have acted with greater care to ensure that her participation in a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) debate on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia did not create an appearance of bias, the Assembly has concluded.
In a finalised report by PACE published on Friday, the committee chairperson examined Cutajar’s argument to the Assembly that at the time of the debate she could not have known that Yorgen Fenech, who has been charged in connection with the assassination, was allegedly involved in the murder of Caruana Galizia.
In the report, the chairperson highlighted the fact that by the time of the debate, there had already been multiple news reports linking Fenech to 17 Black, a company shrouded in allegations of corruption that had first been exposed by Caruana Galizia.
“The assassination of Ms Caruana Galizia sent shockwaves beyond Malta’s borders and was covered by the international media, which followed the investigation closely. In these circumstances, Ms Cutajar, as a member of the Maltese parliamentary delegation, should have acted with greater care to ensure that her participation in the debate did not create an appearance of bias,” the chairperson wrote.
Therefore, since Cutajar did not mention her professional relationship before the Assembly, she “committed a serious breach” of numerous articles within the Assembly’s Code of Conduct.
The assembly ruled out any discussion with regards to Cutajar’s involvement in a property deal with Fenech, concluding that “there was no way to establish whether the payment had been made for the speech she delivered to the Assembly or for promoting some interest or other”.
The committee concluded that the range of sanctions listed in the Code of Conduct cannot be applied in Cutajar’s case since she is no longer a member of the Assembly.
“It was therefore proposed that further consideration be given to the impact that a finding of a violation of the Code of Conduct against a former member would have, including in the event that he or she were to re-join the Assembly at a later date,” it said.
In March, PACE voted that there was indeed a serious breach of rules of conduct by Cutajar when she failed to disclose a conflict of interest in speaking out against a public inquiry into the Caruana Galizia assassination.
On Monday, The Shift highlighted how such reports reflect the weight of Cutajar’s violation, with a spokesperson for PACE telling this newsroom that “such reports are only mandatory if the violation is serious”.
A year ago, Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt requested that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) “look into” whether the behaviour of Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar was in violation of the code of conduct when she criticised his report on Malta while defending the Electrogas deal, only for her relationship with Yorgen Fenech to be exposed later.
Cutajar had resigned, following a damning report by the Standards Commissioner that concluded she was involved in brokering a €3.1 million property deal involving Fenech. Cutajar was being pursued to return a €46,000 brokerage fee that had already been paid to her despite the deal falling through following Fenech’s arrest in November 2019.
The Speaker had walked out, rejecting the adoption of the report by the parliamentary committee. Cutajar has since been re-elected as a Member of Parliament through casual elections.