Press digest

The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press.

The Times reports how court evidence yesterday showed that the police got a confession by Frank Sammut in the oil procurement scandal and a denial from Tancred Tabone. It also reports a constitutional court case instituted by Mr Justice Farrugia Sacco, who argued that the prime minister’s move to impeach him is illegal.  

The Malta Independent quotes Joe Cordina, the former financial administrator of the PL who said he did not nothing wrong and was not involved in the oil procurement scandal.

MaltaToday reports the evidence presented yesterday in connection with the commissions for Enemalta oil procurement.

l-orizzont says that six months after contractor Zaren Vassallo lent €250,000 to the PN, he was awarded a €15m contract by the government. It also says that the police found there was no case in the Safi club drugs allegations.

In-Nazzjon quotes the prime minister saying the PN is the only party which guarantees a future to young people.

The overseas press

Italy's general election has produced a stalemate, with Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left alliance failing to win a working majority in parliament and former premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right saying the vote should be declared "too close to call". Ansa reports Bersani's alliance looked set to come first in the contests for the both the Senate and the Lower House, with almost all the votes counted early on Tuesday, although the difference with respect to the centre-right was less than one per cent in both cases. The centre-left was on course to win outright control of the House, thanks to the allocation of bonus seats that goes to the winning alliance. But neither of the two biggest coalitions was close to the 158 seats needed in the Senate to have a working majority.

Sole 24 Ore says US stocks had their worst drop in more than three months as the prospect of political paralysis in Italy raised the specter of Europe's debt crisis flaring up again. The Dow Jones Index in New York fell by more than 1.5 per cent – its biggest single-day drop since November. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell by 1.8 per cent and the Nasdaq composite dropped by 1.4 per cent.

Le Soir reports EU agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels have called for more DNA testing of meat across Europe. The call came as another company was caught up in the selling of beef contaminated by horse meat. Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle reports German health officials are investigating 150 poultry farms suspected of flouting the rules for free-range egg production. Regulations stipulate a minimum of four square meters of space for each hen for a poultry farm to be able to sell its products as "free range". It has now emerged that several farmers kept more birds than permitted, selling the eggs for a higher price than they otherwise would be able to because of the free range status.

The Pope has changed the rules of the conclave that will elect his successor, allowing cardinals to bring forward the start date if all of them arrive in Rome before the usual 15-day transition between pontificates. Zenit  agency says Benedict signed a legal document with some line-by-line changes to the 1996 Vatican law governing the election of a new pope. It is one of his last acts as pope before resigning on Thursday.

According to The Guardian, the Catholic Church in Britain is in turmoil after its most senior cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who faces allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour, announced he was stepping down and would not be attending the conclave. The announcement of his immediate resignation comes after the Observer newspaper reported that three priests and a former priest in Scotland reported the cardinal to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years. It is understood that Cardinal O’Brien contests the claims.

France 24 says French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has described images posted on line of seven members of a French family kidnapped in Cameroon as “shocking”. The video shows the family – including four children – surrounded by masked men who say they belong to the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram.

ABC reports that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard would embark on a mini-campaign through western Sydney next week, as a new opinion poll showed support for Labour has flatlined. The Newspoll, published in The Australian newspaper, shows Labour's primary vote has dropped one point to 31 per cent during the past three weeks with the Coalition having a commanding lead over Labour - 55 per cent to 45 per cent. If the results were replicated on election day, Labour would lose dozens of seats.

TVNZ says Japan's whaling body has accused anti-whaling activists on Sea Shepherd of ramming the Nisshin Maru factory ship while it was trying to refuel in the Southern Ocean. The whaling ship and the fuel tanker had to abandon the process after allegedly being struck five times. No one was injured and that the damage was being assessed. The Sea Shepherd has denied the accusation. The drama unfolded in the aftermath of the anti-whaling group accusing Japan of sending a military icebreaker to the southern ocean to defend the whaling fleet, a claim Japan has denied.

Il Tempo reports an Italian prosecutor has formally requested a manslaughter charge against the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which crashed into a reef off Tuscany last year, killing 32 people. He also wants Francesco Schettino to be tried for causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while the frantic evacuation of passengers and crew was still being conducted. A judge must decide whether to order a trial for Schettino and five others named in the request. Prosecutors also said Costa Crociere, the Italian cruise company, has asked for a plea bargain agreement which, if it was accepted, could see it pay a €1million fine. The ship went aground off the Italian island of Giglio while sailing close to the shore.

Metro says a court has heard that a father accused of killing his six children in a house fire in Derby had become "paranoid" about losing them in an upcoming custody battle. Mick Philpott was worried he would not be able to see his children after a legal hearing that was scheduled on the same day his children tragically died in the fatal blaze. Philpott (aged 56) was locked in a vitriolic custody battle with his former mistress Lisa Willis (aged 29) after she left the home she shared with him and his wife three months earlier, taking her five children with her. Philpott was father to four of Miss Willis's children and had another six with his 31-year-old wife, Mairead. The family all lived together in the same home in Allenton. Philpott and his wife along with a third defendant, 46-year-old Paul Mosley, have each denied six separate counts of manslaughter in relation to the deaths.




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