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GSD stands firm on Isola ‘failure’, Govt claims Phillips ‘also filed late’

The Gibraltar Government and the Opposition traded tough blows yesterday in a fresh exchange in the row over Albert Isola’s Declaration of Interest in Parliament.

The first salvo came from the GSD, which insisted that Mr Isola, the Minister for Financial Services, should have declared his interest in a Bahamian company listed in the Panama Papers.

The Opposition said the Gibraltar Government was using ‘distractions and inaccuracies’ to attack the GSD and deflect attention from “the raw nerve that has been touched” by the disclosures.

The existence of the Bahamian company was revealed last week by the GSD as it criticised Mr Isola for being “woefully late” in filing his Declaration of Interest form in the Gibraltar Parliament after the last general election.

But yesterday the government also hit back and claimed GSD MP Elliott Phillips had filed his own Declaration of Interest “barely two weeks” before the Opposition raised its concerns about Mr Isola.

No 6 Convent Place accused the GSD of “political hypocrisy and downright incompetence”.

DISCLOSURE

In a statement yesterday, the GSD again sought to deflect government accusations that it was tarnishing Gibraltar’s reputation by linking the issue of Mr Isola’s delay in filing his form with the existence of the Bahamian company.

“The aggressive tone and unsupported accusations of laziness, recklessness and negligence contained in the GSLP response to the GSD’s revelations about Albert Isola’s part ownership of a Bahamas company, indicates that a raw nerve has been touched,” it said.

“It begs the question why does Albert Isola not make full disclosure, instead of mounting an attack on the Opposition based on distractions and inaccuracies?”

The GSD maintained that there had been a failure by Mr Isola to disclose this interest in his Declaration of Interest form.

“What results in Gibraltar being tarnished is Albert Isola’s failure, not any actions of the GSD Opposition, which is meeting its democratic responsibilities,” it said.

The government had argued that Mr Isola’s interest in the Bahamian company related to his previous work as a lawyer.

But the GSD said that this was “a mere distraction”, adding that it had not questioned Mr Isola’s professional conduct or probity.

“The GSD has questioned his failure as a Member of Parliament to make the required disclosure,” the Opposition said.

“The statement that Fiduciary Group owns the Bahamian company, Artnell Associates Ltd, conflicts with the information obtained from the “Panama Papers”.”

“This information shows that this company is owned personally by individuals, including Albert Isola.”

“Consequently, the disclosure of his interest in the Fiduciary Group does not excuse his failure to disclose his interest in this Bahamian company.”

The GSD added: “The mention of Daniel Feetham and Elliott Phillips having been partners at Isolas is a further distraction.”

“Their partnership at Isolas did not result in ownership of either Fiduciary Group or Artnell Associates Ltd.”

“Neither of them have ever had any interest in either company or previous knowledge of their activities.”

LATE

The Opposition had first raised the Bahamian connection in a statement last week that was critical of Mr Isola’s failure to file his Declaration of Interest.

Although there is no deadline in law, some six months had transpired from the last general election and the minister had not updated his form.  He finally did so last Friday after the GSD publicly highlighted the delay.

But last night, the Gibraltar Government said it had established that Opposition MP Elliott Phillips had filed his own declaration barely two weeks earlier.

The GSD, it said, had “kept this secret”, adding the public would be surprised by the revelation given the controversy over Mr Isola’s late filing.

“It also reveals an unprecedented level of political hypocrisy and of downright incompetence that the Opposition should have chosen to pontificate about this only to then be found guilty of late filing themselves,” the government said in a statement.

“The sad reality is that it also says much about the kind of Opposition that we have today that they chose to attack a Government Minister on this issue and they chose to ignore that one of their number had also failed to file on time.”

The government said the Opposition had also chosen to ignore that Mr Isola’s declaration is almost identical to that which he had already filed after his election in the by-election of 2013, where his interest in the Fiduciary Group, which owns Artnell Associates Ltd, was first disclosed and declared.

“The Government accepts that in some instances declarations are filed late not because anyone has anything to hide but because Members of Parliament are busy with other duties and in the case of Ministers their Government work and in the case of some other Members their work outside Parliament,” the government said.

“The GSD, however, did not accept that when it came to Albert Isola.”

“In the circumstances which the Opposition have created, the news that one of their own MPs failed to file his own declaration on time will be astonishing to many people.”

“This will reveal the double-standards of the GSD which has been a hallmark of the way in which they have operated for many years.”

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo called on Opposition leader Daniel Feetham to condemn his MP for failing to file his declaration on time.

“Given that the GSD said that Albert was "woefully late" and that his behaviour was shocking, is Danny Feetham now going to publicly condemn Elliott for the identical sin?” he asked.

“If he doesn't, the GSD will be seen to be entirely hypocritical and lacking in credibility and judgment.”

“Making these allegations against Albert Isola whilst one of their own had also failed to file his form on time shows a complete and utter lack of political integrity on the part of the leadership of the GSD.”

“It illustrates an unfathomable level of hypocrisy and shows how they try to treat the public as if they were unable to see through their double standards.”

“It is time the GSD accepts that Albert’s late filing is nothing more than an oversight, the same of which could be said for Elliot Phillips.”

“Their behaviour is shameful and it is high time they started putting Gibraltar first.”