Labour MP refuses to divulge names of fish farm clients
Labour MP and Planning Authority board member Joseph Sammut refuses to reveal the names of the fish farm investors who engaged his firm for legal and consultancy services.
As the PA is today expected to decide on whether to revoke the permits of four fish farms found in breach of their permits, Dr Sammut is likely to again recuse himself because of the interests he says he has represented in the sector since 2014.
Two weeks ago, the PA postponed a decision to revoke the permits, giving the operators time to reach an agreement with the authorities on how to address several illegalities at the sites and also on how they will move their fish farms further out to sea.
During the last hearing, the Labour MP declared his links to fish farm investors and then left the hearing. Asked whose interests he represented, Dr Sammut would only say that his firm was “engaged by foreign and Maltese investors to spearhead the innovative approach in the field of acqua/mari-culture (sic) that will address all the salient issues which are presently crippling this industry”.
The momentum against the sector’s environmental impact came to a peak this summer, and talks of changes to the industry’s location and operations started only a few weeks ago.
Dr Sammut, who admitted that he had been working for fish farm operators since 2014, said his clientshad not authorised him to divulge any further information, except that his services were being conducted “in line with professional and ethical standards”.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat continues to accuse the Opposition of having ties with fish farm operators.
Two weeks ago, The Sunday Times of Malta reported that the Nationalist Party’s ċedoli scheme, through which individuals lend the party €10,000 at four per cent interest, was close to meeting the €3 million mark.
The government reacted to the report questioning whether fish farm operators were among the investors. The Prime Minister said last
week the scheme could be the reason why Opposition leader Simon Busuttil “aligned” himself with fish farm operators.
Dr Muscat was referring to the PA hearing two weeks ago when the PN representative voted against the revocation of permits, saying that it was only fair the operators were given two weeks to come in line.
Dr Busuttil, in turn, said the government had done nothing about the problem in three years and then aimed to appease public outrage, with the Prime Minister pretending to distance himself from the PA decision.
The PA falls under the Prime Minister’s portfolio. In an interview with The Malta Independent earlier this week, PN executive council president Anne Fenech denied that fish farm operators had participated in the ċedoli scheme.