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Government reacts as Muscat demands explanations on Sunday Times revelations

Updated with government reaction at 5.20 p.m.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said today that e-mails related to the oil procurement scandal published by The Sunday Times today posed very serious questions and it was incumbent of the prime minister and Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt to clear the air.

Speaking in a One TV interview, Dr Muscat said he would give the prime minister the benefit of the doubt on his decision to recommend a presidential pardon to businessman George Farrugia.

He was sure that the prime minister had more information about the granting of the pardon. It also appeared that the prime minister had been given advice by the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner. He did not wish to cast doubts until he himself had further information, Dr Muscat said.

But, he insisted, a clear explanation was needed over the revelation in The Sunday Times about two very important points. The first was how an official of Dutch oil company Trafigura had asked the local representative how his meeting with Austin Gatt had gone.

It was worth pointing out, Dr Muscat said, that Dr Gatt had said that when he met this businessman – George Farrugia - he never discussed Enemalta issues or oil tenders. Dr Muscat said he did not think that the Trafigura official was interested in Dr Gatt’s views on what was happening in Hamrun.

Secondly, he said, the newspaper had also revealed a communication with former chairman Tancred Tabone in which George Farrugia asked Mr Tabone to discuss if they could discuss details of a meeting he had with ‘A.G’

Dr Muscat said he would not speculate who this A.G was, but these were matters which the prime minister and Austin Gatt needed to explain.

In his interview Dr Muscat said it was wrong for the Nationalist Party to try to imply that the Labour Party was not able to negotiate or administer the EU budget for Malta.

He said MEP Louis Grech as European Parliament rapporteur had 'been there, done that'.

And the Nationalist Government was the government which could not even establish bus fares without even coming into conflict with the European Commission, he said with reference to another Sunday Times story.

GOVERNMENT REACTION

The government in a brief reaction said partisan speeches such as the one by Dr Muscat did not serve to fight corruption.

The government said it fought corruption with firm action, and that was why it had decided to recommend a pardon in the oil procurement case. 

Should Dr Muscat or anyone else have any information, it should be immediately given to the police since that was the only way to counter corruption.

LABOUR: GOVERNMENT SHOULD EXPLAIN, NOT HIDE

The Labour Party said the government's reaction was an insult to the people's intelligence.

It said a leading minister had been mentioned in the e-mails but the government, instead of taking action or explaining, chose to attack Joseph Muscat.

Dr Gonzi had opted not to speak about the presidential pardon and the latest developments.

Instead of hiding, Dr Gonzi needed to explain the actions of the minister who was responsible for Enemalta, the party said.

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