Nationalist MEP Francis Zammit Dimech should resign from the European Parliament because he was the only one in the EP mentioned in the Panama Papers, the prime minister said this morning.
But the MEP in a reaction said he only shared an office building with a firm mentioned by the Panama Papers, and had nothing to do with it.
Referring to next Tuesday’s EP debate on the rule of law in Malta, Dr Muscat said he looked forward to some introspection.
The only person in the European Parliament mentioned in the Panama Papers as an intermediary was Francis Zammit Dimech.
By his party’s yardstick, he should resign and not take part in the debate, he said.
Dr Zammit Dimech had been mentioned in the context of a company which opened accounts for tax avoidance. The Nationalist MEP, through his company, was therefore making money from a tax system that was being criticised, Dr Muscat said.
How could anyone criticise something and then make money from it?
Dr Muscat said the government was also well aware of the political football in the European Parliament, where the Popular Party moved a debate against Malta whenever it was being pressured over the situation in Hungary.
The EP would not doubt give its opinion, as would the European Commission and the council, but Dr Muscat said Malta was not doing anything wrong and would continue to progress.
Earlier in his address, Dr Muscat said the government’s aim remained ‘prosperity with a purpose’ and he would be abroad again next week, in Asia, to promote investment and job creation in Malta.
Dr Muscat hailed the pay agreement with teachers, saying teachers’ pay had fallen back because under past administrations this important profession was ignored. Teachers were responsible for the future of the country and it was a shame that for many years, this profession was rendered unattractive and people were not joining. Teachers’ work and necessary qualifications were increasing, and it was fair that they were given an unprecedented raise, he said.
As expected, other professions were now also demanding a raise. But it should be remembered that last year the government gave a raise to all categories of state workers, although adjustments were needed from time to time.
Dr Muscat also hailed the decision to halve, and eventually remove Matsec exam fees, saying it had been illogical that the government paid for all stages of education, but then charged students to sit for exams.
This progress, he said, was a result of economic growth and the financial surplus it had yielded. Everyone had contributed to this growth, except the opposition, he said. And the Opposition was punished for it.
The Nationalist Party had still not got around to realising that working to undermine Malta, locally and abroad, only harmed the party itself.
He believed that the leader of the opposition did not want to follow this line but so far was unable to get a grip and tell the few within his party to follow his direction.
Should the opposition not change, it would continue to suffer at the polls, and Malta would continue to lack a proper opposition, Dr Muscat said.
In his speech, at Sta Venera PL club, Dr Muscat said his target was to ensure that the coming generation would be the most well off, the most free, liberal and cosmopolitan.
ZAMMIT DIMECH REACTS
In a reaction, Dr Zammit Dimech accused the prime minister of 'lying' and trying to deviate attention hours before a parliamentary debate on the collapse of the rule of law in Malta which happened under his watch.
He explained that the Panama Papers make reference to Valletta Legal acting as intermediaries for clients.
"I never formed part of Valletta Legal but Valletta Legal had an office sharing agreement with me – we were using the same premises and therefore the name ‘Francis Zammit Dimech Advocates’ is indicated as part of the address of that Firm.
"Francis Zammit Dimech Advocates never had any interest in Valletta Legal which in any case acted for clients since even Valletta Legal never had any company of its own or for its own lawyers in any offshore jurisdiction," Dr Zammit Dimech said, sounding amazed.
"The truth is that the only minister in the whole European Union who was mentioned in the Panama Papers was Konrad Mizzi who along with the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister Keith Schembri holds an offshore company in Panama for his own interest (and not even as a professional intermediary). Furthermore the Prime Minister failed to take action against them and owing to the collapse of the rule of law, FIAU and the police did not take any action neither."
Dr Zammit Dimech said he would keep working to defend the rights of Maltese citizens.