Good governance and transparency rules have once again been flouted by Prime Minister Robert Abela in his second declaration of assets as the head of government.
According to his latest declaration of assets for 2021, tabled in Parliament on Monday following reports by The Shift about its tardiness, Abela declared he has become worse off financially since his ascension to the seat of power in Castille with significant decreases in both his income and savings.
Tabled just before the announcement of the budget on Monday – in a clear bid to divert focus from how late Cabinet’s obligatory declarations have been filed – the Prime Minister has once again been most economical with the truth.
While declaring an income of €65,520 for 2021, his first full year as Prime Minister, he failed to indicate his rental income from his uninhabited two-tumolo Zejtun farmhouse to Russians seeking to acquire Maltese citizenship.
Instead, in a clear move to conceal his rental income from the cash-for-passports scheme, the Prime Minister only declared his income from rent was “according to the T24 form”.
This form is filed with the tax authorities by anyone receiving rental income and on which a 15 per cent tax threshold is levied. However, the form is not available to the public and the Commissioner for Inland Revenue is legally bound not to divulge it, except with the permission of the filers themselves, in this case, the Prime Minister.
Through this blatant lack of transparency, and in breach of the very spirit of the code of ethics, the Prime Minster used a bureaucratic instrument to conceal his earnings from his still unlived-in Outside Development Zone Zejtun farmhouse.
Last year, The Times of Malta revealed that Robert and Lydia Abela, who acquired the ODZ farmhouse in Zejtun under dubious circumstances and possibly with an under-declared value, were leasing the property out to two Russian clients of their law firm who had applied to purchase Maltese citizenship.
The lease is suspected to be ‘a phantom’ rental used only as an address to tick the residency requirement for prospective passport buyers, as no one has ever lived at the PM’s farmhouse since he acquired it.
When asked to declare his income from the lease and whether it was a ‘fake’ contract, the Prime Minster has refused to explain, saying only that he paid his taxes on the income.
However, he is so far still refusing to come clean to the public on the amount of the payments he received from the Russians.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s latest declaration of assets shows he is far worse off financially than before the beginning of his premiership.
Before he became Prime Minister, the Abelas were declaring a taxable income of €252,000 a year, mostly from government handouts by way of direct orders, in particular from the Planning Authority, the Prime Minster has seen his annual income reduced to €66,000 just a year later.
In his declaration, the Prime Minster failed to state whether his wife Lydia, a lawyer by profession, had brought in any income in 2021.
Although between 2020 and 2021 the Prime Minister did not declare any new investments or properties, his savings took a nosedive. While the Abelas declared having €534,411 in savings in various bank accounts in 2020, these savings have shrunk to €376,444 just 12 months later.
It is not yet known how, without having saved a cent from his annual income, Abela and his wife spent an additional €158,000 from their savings in 2021.
The couple has no pending loans on their three properties – a seafront penthouse apartment and garage in Marsascala, a farmhouse in Xewkija and the still uninhabited ODZ farmhouse in Zejtun.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister applied for a planning permit to demolish the ODZ farmhouse, acquired for a highly contested declared sum of €600,000, and to rebuild it afresh. Abela is currently no longer leasing his farmhouse to the Russians.
Crooks everywhere first come to mind. What examples from our leaders, but then they are crooks and so the whole country has become infected. Simply a country of thieves!
Shares in properties! Says it all!
Poor Abela. For the sake of the good of Malta Abela is sacrificing himself.
The question that comes up is how he will finance the demolition of the dilapidated property in Zejtun and build a villa with a landscaped surrounding?
Robert Abela is only declaring his assets. He has a separation of assets from his wife. That is the crux of it all. Am I right Bobby?
The Declarations’ objective is to deter corruption, by exposing any inexplicable increase in Net Worth compared to the accumulated income over the years in office.
Without quantifying such “rental” income, Abela is factually rendering this supposedly Official Check useless – and one would expect that the PN lawyers either draw the Speaker’s attention, or file proceedings at the Commissioner for Standards and/or the Law Courts.
It’s called not daring to bite the hand that feeds you.
All contract need a proper cause. In a rent contract, the cause of the payment is the premises rented, whether or not the lessee has or will really occupied them.
The very rich do not mind paying a rent to any PM, because it gives the chance to have his mobile number and they know how to monetise it. Furthermore, very rich people just have a vague idea of what they own, pay, rent. They might have preferred to rent something else without stopping paying Abela.
The problem of Malta is that people close to GoV and its lawyers all benefited from such system of “rent without a present lessee”. So, are the golden passports given upon private interests considerations or upon Malta’s interests?
An let’s not forget that nothing is known about Mesdames Muscat and Abela incomes, exonerated by their husbands ‘ followers from due transparency.