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Busuttil on Panama inquiry: ‘We’re not flogging a dead horse’

The outgoing PN leader shrugged off comments that his involvement is because of ‘sour grapes’ over election loss

Denise Grech
30 July 2017, 11:58am
Simon Busuttil said the inquiry should not be dismissed as “sour grapes” for the Nationalist Party’s defeat in the 3 June general election
Simon Busuttil said the inquiry should not be dismissed as “sour grapes” for the Nationalist Party’s defeat in the 3 June general election
Outgoing Opposition leader Simon Busuttil insisted that “we aren’t flogging a dead horse” with regard to the magisterial inquiry into money laundering allegations against tourism minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The magisterial inquiry this week took a turn, as magistrate Ian Farrugia gave the go ahead for an official inquiry to kick off.

Speaking on Radio 101 this morning, Busuttil said the inquiry should not be dismissed as “sour grapes” for the Nationalist Party’s defeat in the 3 June general election.

“If we do not keep moving forward, we will let justice die,” Busuttil said, adding that he will continue working with the justice system on the Panama scandal after a new leader is appointed in September.

Busuttil had filed a court application last month, signed by shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi and lawyer Kris Busietta, seeking a criminal investigation into Mizzi and Schembri, and listing a sequence of events starting from their appointments in March 2017. The pair were revealed to have set up a secret Panama company after March 2013, with a corresponding trust in New Zealand, documents leaked in the Panama Papers show. Busuttil also referred to a December 2015 email in which audit firm Nexia BT gives the go-ahead to open bank accounts for offshore companies belonging to the two PEPs (politically-exposed persons), with one of the banks, Panamanian bank BSI, having require minimum deposits of $1 million a year. 

Seven appeals were filed against Magistrate Farrugia’s decision to open the inquiry, arguing that Busuttil did not have enough grounds to refer to it as a “criminal investigation.”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who was informed about the request through the court, also filed an appeal.

Speaking to programme Focus 101, the outgoing PN leader said all those who filed an appeal were “in denial” about the severity of the investigation.

Busuttil also questioned the Prime Minister’s appeal: “He’s been ordering so many investigations on shenanigans, why would he avoid an investigation on this?”

He also said the scandal casts doubt on the Muscat and Mizzi’s meetings: “Every time we see them greeting foreign ministers, we start to wonder if he has any deals with them”. This, Busuttil argued, makes Muscat and Mizzi unworthy of their roles.

Busuttil referred to the inquiries surrounding the Panama scandal in Brazil and Pakistan, which saw the countries’ the Prime Ministers being asked to resign this week.

“[Pakistan], one of the most corrupt countries in the world, gave us a lesson on honesty,” Busuttil said. For this reason, he said, “Malta is unworthy of being called a modern country”.