[WATCH] Busuttil accused of influencing PN Cabinet decision over Shell’s €5 million settlement

In Gozo, Labour leader Joseph Muscat warns residents of a dried out economy if Simon Busuttil scares away the VGH investment at Gozo General Hospital

Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat addresses political activity in Qala
Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat addresses political activity in Qala

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has accused opposition leader Simon Busuttil of having pressured the Gonzi Cabinet into agreeing to a €5 million out-of-court  settlement with oil company Shell, just a number of  weeks after he was appointed deputy leader of the PN.

Addressing a political activity in Qala, Gozo, the Labour leader said that Busuttil – who had spent years representing Shell in its case against the government – had pushed for the settlement.

“At the first opportunity where Busuttil could exert power, he pushed for the matter to be settled. And the [PN] Cabinet took a unilateral decision to give Busuttil’s clients €5 million,” Muscat said.

The decision had been taken just days after MaltaToday published documents that showed that commodities trader Trafigura had paid commissions to Enemalta consultant and former MOBC chief executive Frank Sammut for the supply of oil to the national energy corporation.

The settlement came nine years after complaints made by oil company Shell in 2004, leading the European Commission to issue a warning to the Nationalist administration in 2011 that it was "not ensuring independent verification of the separation" of fuel handling and storage facilities, while Enemalta - one of the suppliers of fuel handling services - was the manager of the storage and fuel supply facilities.

'Busuttil’s two weights, two measures'

The Labour leader accused his political rival of being “a hypocrite”, insisting that now that Busuttil knows that deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami is being investigated in connection with the CapitalOne inquiry and allegations of money laundering, Busuttil was not asking for Fenech Adami’s resignation.

The board of inquiry tasked with investigating the way Maltese police handled the CapitalOne money laundering case, declared it cannot exclude the possibility that the criminal investigation failed to gather steam when the name of Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami cropped up in January 2013.

Muscat said that part of the report had been sealed and is being investigated.

The Prime Minister also accused Busuttil of adopting two weights, two measures when his MPs are involved.

“He started off by saying that it was unacceptable for an MP to hold companies abroad and that it didn’t matter whether these had been declared; he yesterday denied that Mario de Marco holds a company in Cyprus but this morning he said it was true, adding ‘what’s the big deal? The company was declared’.”

Muscat said that by Busuttil’s own yardstick, both Fenech Adami and de Marco should be sacked on the spot – concurrently, the Labour media published documents of a registered company.

The company in question, Twinkleday Limited, was set up in June 2013 for Irish entrepreneur Finian Lyden. The company’s ownership is located in Cyprus, according to company registry records and de Marco serves as a director.

Muscat warns against scaring investment away

Muscat warned against scaring the VGH investment away from the Gozo General Hospital, insisting that the hospital needed the investment, without which it would become unsustainable.

“Simon Busuttil’s government won’t have the money to develop a new hospital and Barts Medical School will leave leading to a situation where the running of the hospital will become unsustainable and workers will be transferred back to Malta,” he said.

He reiterated that only the Labour government could be trusted in delivering the construction of the tunnel linking the two islands.

Candidates have their say

During his intervention parliamentary secretary José Herrera took the Chamber of Advocates to task over its ‘”selective” criticism of subsequent administrations.

Herrera denied that the Prime Minister was exerting pressure on Magistrate Aaron Bugeja – investigating the Egrant allegation – but Muscat had himself requested the courts to investigate.

“Why doesn’t the Chamber of Advocates say anything when Simon Busuttil attacks the Attorney General?” Herrera said, adding that the Attorney General’s position was equivalent to that of the Chief Justice, before the Constitution.

The political activity was also addressed by now Labour candidate Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando in which he gave praise to the measures delivered by the Labour government. “I have been working with Joseph Muscat for seven years now,” Pullicino Orlando, referring to the year which he tabled a private member’s bill for the introduction of divorce.

The former PN MP claimed to have an email in had which shows that a meeting was requested between Simon Busuttil and BWSC middleman Joe Mizzi . “I wish to know why the meeting was held and what was discussed during the meeting,” Pullicino Orlando said.