Bernard Grech’s former right-hand man appointed director of db Group

Bernard Grech’s former right-hand man and head of secretariat, Ray Bezzina, will join db Group as a director in the CEO’s office from May 2.

Bezzina, arguably the most influential figure after Grech in the Nationalist Party, confirmed Malta Time that he will join the construction and development company, in one of his main roles. He resigned from his post in the PN earlier this month after the party’s heavy electoral defeat.

“I am proud to join db Group which has always complied with all laws, rules and regulations in all its projects, and will continue to do so. No one has ever proven otherwise,” Bezzina said when contacted.

Bezzina is currently still working within the party during a period of power transfer. Chief strategist Chris Peregin has also stepped down since his contract expired.

The news comes shortly after a political campaign where both parties pledged to make the environment their top priority.

Although cautiously avoiding singling out developers, the PN has been outright critical of the overdevelopment and defacement of the Maltese landscape.

The db group had been involved in the controversial development of the former ITS ground in Pembroke.

The group was first accused of colluding with the Joseph Muscat administration to transfer the main public site to them through a ‘bespoke’ deal that would see them pay a whopping $60 million. euros.

The site’s development plans have drawn widespread protest from Pembroke residents and environmental NGOs.

Over 4,000 objections were submitted to the Planning Authority, and at the time the Nationalist Party was vehemently critical of both the land transfer agreement and the proposed development.

The plans, which included high-rise buildings, shopping malls and luxury hotels and apartments, were granted a permit in 2018 by a slim majority.

But a year later the group was forced back to the drawing board after a court overturned the permit because one of the Planning Authority board members who had given the fire Green had an undisclosed conflict of interest.

Subsequently, the company reduced the size of the development by reducing the height of the residential tower from 37 to 31 stories, lowering the adjacent hotel by two stories and increasing the public open spaces.

In 2017, PN leader Simon Busuttil asked the auditor general to investigate the db land transfer deal. Busuttil said he then received a text message from db Group CEO Arthur Gauci asking for all donations to be returned.

This sparked a controversy over PN’s relationship with db Group, during which Busuttil claimed that he would never allow the company to buy PN’s silence on the matter.

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