Owner of illegal Siggiewi zoo parties with Environment Minister one day before Planning Authority sanctions it

Published: October 5, 2017 at 2:55pm

Anton Rea Cutajar, who owns the illegal zoo L-Arka ta’ Noe in Siggiewi, was at a small and intimate celebration yesterday with the Environment Minister, Jose Herrera, at the Valletta restaurant Capo Crudo. The party was hosted by the restaurant’s director, Keith Seychell, to mark his birthday.

Other guests included Silvio Parnis, parliamentary secretary for local government and communities, businessman and former owner of Global Capital Chris Pace, who now owns an estate agency, and Ivan Portelli, a former policeman who was sacked from the force in 1999 for associating with suspected smugglers under investigation by the police (he continues to associate with one of them until today), and who was appointed Director of Operations at the VAT Department by the incoming Labour government in 2013. He has since been taken off those responsibilities and made Director/Administration at the Inland Revenue Department instead.

Today, at the time of publication of this post, the Planning Authority is in session to decide whether to sanction Mr Cutajar’s illegal zoo or not. UPDATE: The Planning Authority has decided to sanction the illegal development and zoo operation despite objections from NGOs.

Mr Cutajar, whose father Joseph is the mayor of Birzebbuga and was also a Labour Party candidate on the Fifth District in this year’s general election, has been expanding and operating his zoo with what appears to be complete immunity to the law, advertising its services – which include having your picture taken with big cat cubs – and socialising routinely with the Prime Minister, who he describes in Facebook posts as his greatest friend, with the Prime Minister’s wife, with the government’s head of communications Kurt Farrugia, and with Economy Minister and Labour Party deputy leader Chris Cardona.

Two years ago, I published this post. Not long after that, I rang Mr Cutajar to ask him to confirm or deny reports that I had received that the Prime Minister had been a guest at his illegal zoo premises, saying to him that the Prime Minister’s car had been noted parked outside by somebody walking their dog. Mr Cutajar denied it, becoming hostile and aggressive.

The Prime Minister is the cabinet member directly responsible for land-use planning and for the Planning Authority.

Shortly afterwards he rang back, apologised for his hostility, and thanked me for calling him to confirm before publication. He also referred back to my post in which I asked where he gets the money for his fast cars, extensive land and large number of big cats which cost a daily fortune to feed and maintain, given that he has no obvious source of income, no family money and is barely literate.

He explained that he makes his money through a highly lucrative business which breeds big cats like lions, leopards and tigers in captivity for export to the Gulf States, where they are prized as status symbols by sheikhs and other potentates.

This website was unable to ascertain whether this business is registered in Malta or not, and whether the cubs bred in Mr Cutajar’s illegal zoo in Siggiewi are among those exported to the Gulf as status symbols for sheikhs.

At Capo Crudo restaurant yesterday, celebrating owner Keith Seychell’s birthday: the Environment Minister and Mrs Jose Herrera (3rd and 4th from left), Keith Seychell, Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Parnis, businessman Chris Pace (5th, 6th and 7th from left), Anton Rea Cutajar (1st on right) and Ivan Portelli, former director of operations at the VAT Department and now director/administration at the Inland Revenue and his wife Samantha Portelli Warne (2nd and 3rd on right).

Anton Rea Cutajar with two rare white cubs of the sort which fetch a premium price in the Gulf.

Not even tiger cubs are safe from being pawed by the Minister for the Economy and deputy leader of the Labour Party.

Anton Rea Cutajar with his father, the Labour mayor of Birzebbuga, who was also a Labour Party candidate in the last general election.

Anton Rea Cutajar(third from left) with the government head of communications, Kurt Farrugia (second from left).

With Mrs Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife, who Anton Rea Cutajar describes as “the Queen”.