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Gonzi has assumed responsibility in oil procurement case - Muscat

Gonzi has assumed responsibility in oil procurement case, Muscat says. Video: Paul Spiteri Lucas

Labour leader Joseph Muscat said this morning that the prime minister, in endorsing Austin Gatt’s version of his meeting with oil trader George Farrugia, had become become directly responsible for this case.

Dr Muscat was referring to Lawrence Gonzi's comments yesterday that he stood by a declaration made by Dr Gatt that he never discussed oil tenders with Mr Farrugia - the person granted a presidential pardon to reveal information on the alleged illegal kickbacks.

Speaking at a press conference in Rabat, Dr Muscat said that Dr Gatt had given the impression that he only met Mr Farrugia in run-of-the-mill constituency meetings, but the e-mails published by the Sunday Times indicated otherwise.

He could understand that Dr Gonzi would give Dr Gatt the benefit of the doubt after so many years of friendship, but by going a step further and standing by his version, the prime minister was making himself directly responsible, Dr Muscat said.

Dr Muscat said the yardstick of whether the granting of the pardon was a good decision or not would be based on the testimony in court and on whether the police needed this information to strengthen their cases in court.

In his reaction to The Sunday Times story, Dr Gatt had reiterated that when he met Mr Farrugia he had never discussed the business oil procurement.

A spokesman said: "The minister repeats once again that his denial  is categorical and if anyone has even a shred of proof that he discussed Enemalta oil tenders with anyone – let alone George Farrugia – then that proof should be immediately given to the Commissioner of Police.” 

The spokesman said that Dr Gatt had also met Mr Farrugia – in the presence of a number of his partners and ministry officials – regarding a storage project they were developing and which the ministry was involved in from a maritime point of view."

The spokesman said the e-mails did not imply anything contrary to what the minister said, and none of them even remotely referred to Enemalta oil tenders. In fact, one of them did not even refer to the minister at all and ‘A.G.’ could be anyone. Another e-mail referred  to Mediterranean Oil Bunkering Corporation storage facilities in which George Farrugia was active as well, and the third one merely stated that Tancred Tabone, then chairman of Enemalta, would be meeting the minister, which he did regularly.

Dr Muscat made this morning's comments at the Wignacourt Museum where he reiterated his party’s position on culture.

He said that culture would not be the Cinderella of a new government, more so since the coming five years would see the 50th anniversary of Independence, Valletta as European Cultural Capital, and Malta's presidency of the EU.

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