MaltaToday previous editions

MT 26 May 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 4 of 15

maltatoday, FRIDAY, 26 MAY 2017 5 News Muscat stands by decision to retain Schembri and Mizzi CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Mus- cat promised to get to the end of the Egrant allegation: "How can Simon Busuttil now state that it is a second- ary issue? He tarnished our name with the whole of Eu- rope and he says it's no longer important?" The Prime Minister is cur- rently battling allegations that his wife, Michelle, owns a share in Egrant Inc, a Pana- manian company. He has consistently denied the alle- gations, calling them "a cal- umny". Promising to resign if the inquiry by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja links him in any way to the offshore com- pany, Muscat said Busuttil could not run away from his own share of responsibility. Muscat defended the deci- sion to call an election be- fore the inquiry is published by insisting that "it was the right decision to take for the country". "Five weeks have passed al- ready: can you imagine what level of uncertainty in this country would have been in? It would all have led to a stag- nated economy and dried out investment. This was the only way to solve Busuttil's dangerous games." Panama, Keith and Konrad Muscat has taken a lot of f lak over his decision not to sack Minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of stuff, Keith Schembri – both trusted friends exposed in the Pan- ama Papers for holding off- shore companies. The Prime Minister has stood by his decision to re- tain the two, claiming that he "needed them" to implement a number of projects. "Under normal circum- stance they would have had to resign. But the circum- stances were different for both: for Konrad Mizzi, he declared the accounts. Keith, on the other hand, was a businessman and has a clear explanation of why his trusts in Malta had to be closed. "But I also needed them to implement certain projects. They are not just friends, which in this case is irrele- vant. I knew that speculation would mount on my decision to retain them, but I put the country first in order to de- liver the power station and other things." Describing Schembri as "a doer and a mover", Muscat argued that his decision to retain them showed that he "put the country first". When host Saviour Balzan questioned how a prime minister could continue gov- erning without the people's trust, Muscat insisted that projects needed to be com- pleted. "I am suffering because of this decision… without Pan- ama Papers, the Opposition would have nothing to talk about." Will Keith Schembri be re- tained? Muscat insisted that Schembri – subject of two magisterial investigations – would resign if criminal proceedings were initiated against him. Allegations of Russian interference Muscat reiterated that two foreign agencies had ap- proached the government to warn of possible Russian meddling, well before the al- legations against him were made. "We had been warned that we could be targeted and, after the allegations were made, a government ap- proached us to say that they had serious suspicion that this could be part of a ma- noeuvre." Muscat said he wasn't com- menting on whether it was true or not that the Egrant whistleblower was part of this manoeuvre: "The only thing I believe is the secret services of other countries… but I don't know on what they're basing their suspi- cions". Asked why he hadn't called a meeting of the national se- curity committee – of which the opposition leader is a member – Muscat said he wanted first to know where Busuttil stood. "I want all facts in hand: was Busuttil told something and he believed it? Did he later learn it was a fabrication but did nothing about it? Or was he a part of it from the start?" The Labour leader said he had "facts in hand" which would allegedly show how the PN had planned the Egrant allegation. Asked whether these had been passed on to the magistrate, Muscat re- plied "the magistrate knows what he needs to know". "We know at what time the meetings took place… who would say what and when. We are certain of this." 'Not excluding fresh allegations' Muscat described the 'crea- tion' of the Egrant allegation as "diabolic". "People would think that if Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote about Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi's Pana- manian companies, then the rest of the allegations must be true… Michelle and I had been hearing of this rumour for months but we laughed it off," Muscat said. According to the Labour leader, he first heard of the Egrant allegation from an in- dividual who had been dining with Busuttil. "When I told Michelle, she replied that she's not the only 'Michelle Muscat' on the island… it was so far-fetched – that the PN would actually come out with it – that we took it as a joke." "I've heard so much over the past months: that I'm build- ing a new house at Targa Gap; that I own apartments in Sliema and in New York; that my wife underwent plas- tic surgery; that I'm the own- er of the Gozo Hospital; that I own a company in Dubai with John Dalli and that this company owns the Gozo Hospital; that I've set up a company to buy Air Malta…" Muscat said he was not discounting that something 'new' might come out any day: either tomorrow, when the leaders face off during Xarabank's debate, or next week during the BA debate or on the day of ref lection. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (R) with Saviour Balzan

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of MaltaToday previous editions - MT 26 May 2017