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Labourite policeman must be identified – PM

Lawrence Gonzi greets well-wishers during a visit to shops and hawkers in Żabbar yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Lawrence Gonzi greets well-wishers during a visit to shops and hawkers in Żabbar yesterday. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The police should identify the Labourite policeman who Labour deputy leader Toni Abela approached to drop criminal charges over a fight at the Attard PL club, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday.

Politicians have a duty to pass information to the police
- Gonzi

He said this was one of two scandals involving Dr Abela who, in a separate recording, admitted to knowing about illegal drug-related activities that were never reported to the police.

The Prime Minister spoke about the Dr Abela case during two visits yesterday, first on a tour of shops in Żabbar and later at a factory producing cheeselets in Żebbuġ.

Dr Gonzi said Dr Abela had failed to report illegal activities at a PL club so as not to embarrass the party. Even more serious, he said, was that Labour leader Joseph Muscat was protecting Dr Abela.

Dr Abela should take political responsibility for the recordings in which he is heard talking about illegal activities that were never reported to the police.

The recordings “exposed Labour’s hypocrisy” also because he is heard admitting that he went to a police station, found a Labourite police officer and told him not to take criminal action over a fight at the Attard party club.

“The biggest scandal of all is that Dr Abela went to the police to ask them not to take any action. I do not know of any bigger scandal than this,” he said.

He said Dr Abela said he had no evidence so he took no action so that Labour would not be embarrassed, despite being a lawyer and knowing that proper action should have been taken.

When asked about Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt’s position on meetings with rogue oil trader George Farrugia, the representative of oil company Trafigura, Dr Gonzi said he believed Dr Gatt when he said he never discussed oil tenders “because he knows which line cannot be crossed”.

On why Dr Gatt had not declared his Swiss bank account since 2005 in his parliamentary declaration of assets, Dr Gonzi said Dr Gatt was a “correct person” and that this had been declared before 2005 and then inadvertently left out. He said the police were given full access to investigate this account.

Meanwhile Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami said yesterday at a press conference that Toni Abela’s decision not to report a case of drug trafficking to the police was “morally, ethically and politically wrong”.

“Here we’re not talking about legal obligations but about ethical duties. Every citizen is duty-bound to report drug trafficking… let alone the deputy leader of one of the two major political parties,” Dr Fenech Adami said.

The televised press conference was dedicated to the 2010 audio recording that emerged on Friday – the second recording featuring Dr Abela.

In the recording Dr Abela is heard talking about sacking a person from a party club following reports of someone cutting up a “white block” that turns out to be drugs.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said yesterday that politicians should not investigate cases and have a duty to pass on information about abuse to the police.

Dr Gonzi was taking part in a pre-recorded interview on Radio Malta’s Għandi x’Ngħid hosted by Andrew Azzopardi

In an obvious reference to recordings involving Toni Abela Dr Gonzi said: “God forbid we have ministers conducting investigations.”

The Prime Minister insisted his Government had always been steadfast against corruption and whenever allegations were made these were passed on to the appropriate authorities for investigation.

Dr Gonzi also said sections of the media had chosen to focus solely on Transport Minister Austin Gatt, “forgetting” the Cabinet’s decision to grant a presidential pardon in the oil scandal.

The Prime Minister yesterday insisted the “most important” decision was the presidential pardon given to rogue oil trader George Farrugia to turn State evidence.

Asked about Dr Gatt’s silence before addressing a press conference on the oil scandal that took place when he was minister responsible for Enemalta, Dr Gonzi said:

“For 14 days Austin Gatt did not speak because he gave the Police Commissioner his word but he could not remain silent after being bombarded from every quarter.”

When the presenter pointed out that Dr Gatt’s silence had prompted speculation, the Prime Minister said it was not the media’s job to speculate.

He also took umbrage at the way The Times reported on the contents of an e-mail that had appeared a day earlier in Malta Today as well as on the social media, which Mr Farrugia allegedly sent to an international oil company claiming he had met Dr Gatt.

The Times reproduced a retyped version of the e-mail because the original was not of printable quality. Although the content was the same, the printed version contained two typographical mistakes.

“This is my personal opinion but I do not think these issues should be handled this way... but the media can do what they want,” Dr Gonzi said, when asked about the controversy that erupted over this e-mail.

He insisted the presidential pardon was granted on strict conditions, including that Mr Farrugia return any illegal proceeds from the affair.

Dr Gonzi noted that rumours were not enough to convict someone in court. “You need strong evidence to get a conviction because if the case is flimsy we could risk having it thrown out and the perpetrator getting off scot free.”

(Additional reporting by Kurt Sansone)

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