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Watch: Muscat refuses to comment on 17 Black claims

Comments might prejudice 'ongoing inquiries'

Updated with video at 4.45pm

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat would not say when questioned on Tuesday whether he had discussed the Daphne Project revelations on mystery company 17 Black with his chief of staff Keith Schembri or Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Fielding questions from reporters, Dr Muscat said the advice he had been given was not to comment in any way that could prejudice any ongoing inquiries.

Dr Muscat was asked for his reaction to a report that $1.6 million (€1.3 million) was transferred to 17 Black, a Dubai company listed as one of the "target clients" which would pay in money to Keith Schembri's and Konrad Mizzi's once-secret Panama companies.

Leaked documents show how the men's financial advisers Nexia BT had said 17 Black would be paying in money to Mr Schembri's and Dr Mizzi's Panama companies Tillgate and Hearnville, via accounts they tried to open in the Bahamas.

Asked if he knew who owned 17 Black, Dr Muscat would not answer with a yes or a no, and instead repeated that he would not comment on a matter that was subject to a magisterial inquiry.

Dr Muscat preferred to bring up allegations made last year that his wife owned a secret offshore company called Egrant. He said he hoped the 45 journalists collaborating on the international Daphne Project would investigate the matter and prove it was a "lie". That case too is subject to a magisterial inquiry.

Dr Muscat was also asked about mounting criticism facing Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef. Asked if Mr Micallef should resign after local artists, international best selling authors, and most recently a member of the capital of culture monitoring board, all expressed concern over his chairmanship, Dr Muscat said he disagreed. He said he believed in freedom of expression and would not condemn Mr Micallef for expressing his thoughts.

The culture chief has been a vocal critic of a makeshift memorial of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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