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GSD tells CM to ‘stop digging’ over GPA appointment

GSD Headquarters. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The GSD said its concerns about the appointment of the new chairman of the Gibraltar Police Authority related to the Chief Minister’s “inability to ringfence his conflicts of interest”, and be seen to do so.

It was reacting to the latest statement from the Government in the row over the appointment of Peter Montegriffo as GPA chairman, calling on the Chief Minister to “stop digging”.

The GSD had described as “surprising and inappropriate” the appointment of Mr Montegriffo, a former partner and now consultant at Hassans, given the Chief Minister’s links to the firm.

It said that while Mr Montegriffo’s reputation was “unimpeachable”, the appointment “simply does not look good” and could undermine public confidence.

Earlier this week, the Gibraltar Government said the “excellent appointment” had been proposed by former Governor Vice Admiral Sir David Steel – not the Chief Minister as the GSD had claimed - and accused the Opposition of “clutching at populist straws”.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said GSD members “would swap Mr Montegriffo for Mr Azopardi as their leader in the blink of an eye”.

The exchanges drew another salvo from the GSD on Tuesday.

“Mr Picardo repeatedly saying that Mr Montegriffo was the GSD founder is not a defence to his actions in the same way as hiring Peter Caruana who once described Mr Picardo as ‘unfit’ to be Chief Minister will not provide him with blanket of immunity or absolution,” the Opposition said in a statement.

It said that for the Chief Minister to say the former Governor had approached Mr Montegriffo “hardly absolves Mr Picardo of responsibility” even if it did happen that way.

The GSD said Gibraltar was accustomed to Mr Picardo’s “spin and twist of the facts” and would be “sceptical about his explanations”.

“In any event it should have been plain to the Chief Minister as well as the former Governor how inappropriate it was to appoint a senior lawyer at Hassans as GPA Chair in the context of evidence being heard in the McGrail Inquiry,” the GSD added.

“Indeed, it is a brazen act in the face of the ongoing inquiry disregarding everything said in it.”

Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition, added: “The McGrail Inquiry has heard plenty of evidence of the interwoven commercial and ongoing business interests between Mr Picardo and his law firm who have even via corporate vehicles been vying for public contracts from his own Government.”

“It has also heard evidence as to how Mr Picardo then sought to use his influence to impact on decision-making of the GPA.”

“Any reasonable observer would think it would be inappropriate to have a senior lawyer from his law firm in that role.”

“That is because the perception of independence of the GPA Chair is as important as substantive independence.”

“Under the law the Chief Minister and former Governor had power to ensure that the panel of persons from whom the GPA Chair was chosen did not include a member of his law firm.”

“People will find it hard to believe no one else could have been appointed to that role.”

“Mr Picardo has taken to surrounding himself with former GSD ministers in the hope this gives him a better appearance.”

“It’s not working and all it looks like is that he is so desperately clutching at straws that he has to wheel out Sir Peter Caruana and Mr Montegriffo to make him look better.”

“He needs to stop digging in his hole.”

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