'It is Delia who is caught in absurdity, not me' - Muscat
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'It is Delia who is caught in absurdity, not me' - Muscat

PM refutes criticism that his refusal to sack top officials has set a precedent

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has rejected criticism that his inaction against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri had set a precedent to the point that he now finds himself having to defend the Opposition leader as well.

“The only absurd situation is that concerning Opposition leader Adrian Delia who is now refusing to apply for himself the same arguments he had made for others to resign,” he said.

Dr Muscat fielded questions from the press on Monday morning during a media event in Mosta, marking the inauguration of a respite centre for persons with disability.

The Prime Minister was again taken to task over his dogged defence of Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s top aide Keith Schembri, amid calls for them to resign in connection with the 17 Black reports.

17 Black is the name of a Dubai-based company which was the source of a planned €2 million deposit into secret Panama companies belonging to Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri. The two of them are denying any wrongdoing, and the Prime Minister has resisted calls for their resignation or their temporary suspension pending and the outcome of an ongoing inquiry and police investigation.

However, it has now transpired that even the Opposition leader himself Adrian Delia who has been vociferously calling for them to step down, is under investigation over money laundering activities involving a prostitution racket in Soho, some 15 years ago. The development was revealed by The Sunday Times of Malta.

While Dr Delia is also denying any wrongdoing, the Prime Minister yesterday declared he would not rush into conclusions pending the outcome of the probe. His declaration, fuelled criticism that Dr Muscat had only taken such approach so as not to compromise his own position with Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.Adrian Delia is now refusing to apply for himself the same arguments he had made for others to resign

The Prime Minister insisted he was acting on the advice of the Attorney General and the Justice Minister, who reportedly told him the 17 Black investigation was not specifically focusing on Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

While noting that he would take action once the probe would be concluded, he said that even on allegations involving a controversial land expropriation deal at Il-Fekruna, in Xemxija which happened under the PN-led administration, he was not in a position to say if the minister then responsible, Jason Azzopardi, should resign or not.

“What I can say is that in all cases I base my decisions on the findings,” he said.

When it was pointed out to him that politicians seem to be above the law, unless caught with a smoking gun, Dr Muscat insisted he never shied away from taking decisions, citing the demotion of Michael Falzon and Manuel Mallia from Cabinet during the past legislature.

Yet, the allegations against Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri were much more serious but no action was taken, Times of Malta pointed out.

In his reply, the Prime Minister insisted that he had taken a consistent approach throughout of waiting for the outcome of the investigations, while criticism Dr Delia, whom he accused of not applying his own yardstick to himself.

Located at Villa Apap Bologna, the respite facility inaugurated this morning is run by Hila, which is part of the CareMalta Group. Apart from offering a 21-bed accommodation, the centre is equipped with multi-sensory facilities for persons having both physical and intellectual disabilities. An estimated 1,000 families are expected to benefit from this service each year.

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