ADPD – The Green Party this afternoon called for investigations into the allocation of EU funds in the wake of two recent reports by The Shift exposing how politicians’ families have been allocated hundreds of thousands of euros in EU funds to develop boutique hotels.
Speaking in Sliema this afternoon ADPD Chairperson Sandra Gauci said the allocations “raise serious suspicions about whether these were granted on merit or as a result of political influence and family connections.”
Gauci was referring to two recent articles published by The Shift that exposed how the families of Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo and former Labour Party deputy leader and minister Louis Grech had secured EU funding for respective boutique hotels they are developing respectively in Sliema and Qala.
Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo, through a company owned by his wife, has acquired approximately €270,000 in EU funds to turn a large Outside Development Zone property into a three-star boutique hotel specialising in “yoga meditation and culinary services”.
A company fully owned by former Labour Party minister Louis Grech’s three children was allocated €450,000 in EU funds to finance a new boutique hotel project in central Sliema.
“Following reports of two serious cases of suspected abuse of EU funds published in the media in a couple of weeks, one realises that profiting without merit in Malta has become institutionalized and accepted as if it were the norm,” the party said on Saturday.
“Favours and nepotism have become a leadership style.”
The Refalos’ project, according to the party, “calls for a careful investigation. The most disturbing aspect of this revelation is the apparent conflict of interest.
“Despite not being directly associated with the application or the company receiving the funds, Minister Refalo’s connection to the property is undeniable, as it is listed in his asset declaration.
“This raises legitimate questions about whether the funds were awarded on merit or as a result of political influence.”
On the Grechs’ project, the party noted how “the application for these funds was made when Grech was still an MEP and was finalized in 2017. This amount was given when this scheme was controlled by the Maltese government and until now this project is still in its early phases.”
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) has opened 14 fraud cases against Malta over EU funds estimated to total more than €123.5 million.
“This does not bode well for Malta’s reputation especially since we have not been off the FATF grey list for a long time,” the party said.
“But apparently, we still have a long way to go. When you have a government that was elected after 25 years of PN with the slogan of “You can work with us” and with the pledge that they would remove or reduce the trade-for-favours mentality and you see how it is operating today you realize that that was nothing but a smokescreen and empty words aimed to seize power at all costs: power that now after more than 10 years is clouding its judgment and an attitude that it is above every law and authority.”
Gauci added, “We as ADPD are concerned about all this and we ask that a serious investigation be carried out on how these funds were given, and whether there was abuse in the allocation as well as whether insiders and family members were unfairly rewarded.
“These reasonable suspicions clearly show how far we are still from a country run on merit where everyone has an equal chance depending on their abilities.”