The following are the top stories in the national and international press today.
The Sunday Times says that the Finance Ministry had launched an investigation in 2011 after receiving a tip-off that rogue oil trader George Farrugia was committing serious tax fraud. In another story, it refers to the drug incident at a Labour Party club and quotes Labour leader Joseph Muscat insisting he was unaware of the incident.
It-Torca claims that the Nationalist Party has new plans for the south of Malta, which include the building of a large incinerator in Delimara. In another story, it says that a conference in Cyprus some days ago concluded that a gas pipeline between Cyprus and Greece was not viable.
MaltaToday says that oil commodities broker George Farrugia is expected to provide crucial evidence that could indicate that gifts, financial transactions and payments to third persons were made. In its weekly survey, the newspaper says that the Labour Party is back leading the PN by almost 13 points.
The Independent refers to a news conference given by Minister Austin Gatt in which he said the language of an email dated before 2006 could not have been in Maltese and said it had confirmed that an email’s date’s format was not generated when it was sent but when it was printed. In another story, it says that the terms and conditions of the Presidential Pardon brokered between the Attorney General, the Police Commissioner and Dr Farrugia’s legal representative had not been changed after the draft text of the pardon reached cabinet.
Kulhadd says that although a lot has been said by Dr Gatt about the oil procurement scandal, he failed to mention that former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone, who in helping the police in the investigations, is his cousin.
Illum says that the sources of the emails on the oil procurement scandal were not involved in politics. The newspaper also interviews PL Labour MP Anton Refalo who said that in spite of rumours, he was never a business partner of people close to Minister Giovanna Debono.
Il-Mument says that the PN’s electoral proposal most welcomed by the people was that promising the creation of 25,000 new jobs. It also reports on the news conference given by Dr Gatt in which he claimed a frame-up and on that given by Beppe Fenech Adami and Paul Borg Olivier on the Toni Abela recordings.
Globanews reports four foreign nationals – an Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede with joint US citizenship – have been arrested in Benghazi on suspicion of being Christian missionaries. Agents reportedly found the suspects in possession of 45,000 books about Christianity when they were arrested. Another 25,000 were thought to have been distributed. Spreading Christianity is a crime in the predominantly Muslim North African county.
The Vatican is raising the possibility that the conclave to elect the next pope might start earlier than March 15 – the earliest date possible under current rules that require a 15-20 day waiting period after the papacy becomes vacant. Avvenire quotes Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi saying the rule is in place to allow time for the arrival in Rome of “all those (cardinals) who are absent”. But Lombardi noted that the cardinals already know that this pontificate will end on February 28 and can get to Rome in plenty of time.
RIA Novosti reports a massive force of 2,000 Russian emergency workers are cleaning up after the meteor that plunged to Earth on Friday, damaging thousands of buildings and showering people with debris and shattered glass – injuring 1,200 people, including at least 200 children. Repair work had to be done quickly because of the freezing temperatures, which sank close to minus 20 degrees Celsius at night. Fifteen people are still in hospital. CNN reports the cost of the damage is estimated to top 1 billion roubles (24.7 million),
Dawn says 79 people were killed and 200 injured when a powerful bomb ripped through a Shia neighbourhood of Quetta city in southwest Pakistan. Members of the minority sect took to the city streets in protest, blocking roads with burning tyres and throwing stones at passing vehicles. In response, police cordoned off the area.
Ansa reports that an Italian court has sentenced four people to four years in prison finding them guilty of manslaughter after a university dormitory collapsed in a 2009 earthquake that killed 309 people. The defendants were involved in restoration work on the building. Eight students died when the building collapsed in the aftermath of the magnitude 6.3 quake. All of them were banned from working on public contracts for five years and ordered to pay €100,000 to each parent who lost a child and a further €50,000 to each brother or sister. Four others were acquitted in the case.
Sky News says two serving prisoners have appeared in court in Britain charged with murdering a convicted child killer in jail. Gary David Smith, 47, and Lee William Newell, 44, appeared before Worcester Magistrates charged with the murder of Subhan Anwar who was serving a minimum of 23 years for murdering a two-year-old girl. A post mortem examination found his neck had been broken.
According to Mail & Guardian, women’s group in South Africa have called for proceeds from a reality television show featuring Reeva Steenkamp, whom Paralympian Oscar Pistorius is accused of murdering, to be donated to charity. The first episode of “Tropika Island of Treasure” was broadcast last night on South African state television, SABC, despite the death of the 29-year-old model and contestant in a shooting at the athlete's house on Thursday.
The cost of policing the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is staying, has hit £2.9 million ($3.4 million). ABC quotes Scotland Yard sayingng officers have been stationed there ever since Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador after he entered the embassy on June 19. The Australian had lost his battle in the British courts against extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over allegations of sexual assault. Ecuador says the UK government has failed to give assurances Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the United States.
Forbes reports BMW is recalling almost 570,000 cars in the US and Canada amid fears that a battery cable connector can fail and cause engines to stall. BMW says it knows of one minor collision in Canada as a result of the problem, but no injuries. The German automaker will replace the battery cable connector and secure it for free. The recall is scheduled to start next month.