At least seven PL MPs submitted campaign expenditure reports which did not contain receipts to account for several events which treated their constituents to free food, drinks and entertainment throughout their campaigning.
An analysis of the data shows that Keith Azzopardi Tanti, Rebecca Buttigieg, Deo Debattista, Michael Falzon, Julia Farrugia Portelli, Cressida Galea and Rosianne Cutajar all held at least one event which was not backed by supporting documents such as receipts. The Shift has already shown that a costly event held by Silvio Schembri was omitted from his campaign expenses declaration.
In particular, Azzopardi Tanti and Galea failed to submit any kind of receipts at all, with the others submitting fiscal documents which did not account for all of the expenses incurred.
Expenses which were incurred but not listed in the campaign expenditure reports were instead traced from the MPs’ own social media accounts that marketed and promoted their events.
The findings from this analysis further confirm previous reports revealing that several MPs from all sides fell short of requirements in their campaign declarations.
Keith Azzopardi Tanti
According to publicly available information on his official Facebook page, Azzopardi Tanti held at least four events with free food, drinks and, sometimes, entertainment. One event, held at Montekristo Estates on 18 March, charged €10 per person at the door. Azzopardi Tanti was one of the up-and-comers endorsed by disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Of those four events, three featured a full line up of at least four live acts, besides a generous helping of food and drinks. In his declarations, Azzopardi Tanti stated that he spent €17,129 in total, with his major declared expense amounting to €5,345 in unspecified advertising costs.
Fellow newcomer Cressida Galea claimed to have put up €4,957 in personal expenses for her campaign, stating that she paid €2,000 in hire costs without submitting supporting documents. An event held on 16 March and organised on behalf of Galea had free food and drinks, along with guest speakers and a tent set up in front of Ħamrun’s local council.
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar’s campaign expenditure report failed to declare a variety of events held on her campaign trail which included customised banners with an official logo, multiple big tent events, parties, Q&A sessions, and several events serving free food and drinks.
Cutajar declared that she spent €9,955 without filing any receipts documenting her expenditure. While footage and images of the event were later deleted from Schembri’s official Facebook page, social media posts which are still visible on Cutajar’s account also show several events which were not accounted in the MP’s submission to the Electoral Commission.
Rosianne Cutajar, the Labour MP who was the subject of two probes linked with her role in a property deal involving accused murderer Yorgen Fenech, also instituted libel proceedings and a criminal complaint against author Mark Camilleri on claims of online harassment.
At the time of Camilleri’s public posts about Cutajar, the MP was in the spotlight for her role as a broker in the sale of a property valued at €3.1 million to Fenech, who has been charged with masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and has been held under arrest since he attempted to flee Malta in November 2019.
This deal was the subject of investigations by both Malta’s Standards in Public Life Committee and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Formerly a spokesperson to Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, Buttigieg stated that her biggest expense amounted to €1,500 in hiring costs. While Buttigieg did submit some receipts to account for some of the expenses incurred, like postage and advertising fees, there was no documentation showing what was paid to hire Sky Konnect Club in San Ġwann for an event held on 16 March. Donations in kind must also be declared
Julia Farrugia Portelli and Michael Falzon
Similarly, Julia Farrugia Portelli and Michael Falzon both held separate events on 19 March but neither of them listed what they paid for the venue. Farrugia Portelli’s event was held in Montekristo Estates, a recurring choice among MPs throughout the 2022 general elections. The owner of the venue, Charles ‘ic-Caqnu’ Polidano, owes the government millions in tax arrears.
Falzon held a similar type of event at Aria Complex in San Ġwann. Debattista hosted an event on 18 March in which food and drinks were also served for free.