‘I did nothing wrong’ – Abela defends involvement in recording

Labour deputy leader Toni Abela defends involvement in recorded statement suggesting he requested police not to press charges in PL party club dispute, says he did ‘nothing dishonest’.

Labour deputy leader for party affairs Toni Abela insisted that he did nothing wrong when he requested a police officer to not press charges against a member of the Labour Party involved in a party club dispute two years ago.

Abela was speaking during a broadcast of TVHEMM where he insisted that his actions were not out of the ordinary, and that there are no grounds for the Nationalist Party's insistence for his resignation.

Abela also opened several broadsides against the PN administration, insisting that no calls for resignations were made when the PN government decided to award itself a €500 honoraria increase, or when the BSWC scandal was making headlines.

The debate dealt with the unfolding story of Abela's comments in a secret recording wherein Abela can be heard telling the Attard PL committee that he had asked the police not to press criminal charges.

Abela says he stepped in to tell the police at the Birkirkara police station in 2010 to say that a report filed by the barman of the Attard club, Richard Vella, was a civil matter and not a criminal case. Vella's report concerned the fact that a PL committee member had changed the locks to the bar of the Attard club.

Vella himself has however told a court, in charges he faces over a brawl with a Labour local councillor of Attard, John Bonnici, that the recording shows Abela intervened in asking the police not to press charges over the brawl. Abela has denied this, but the PN has latched on to this version of events.

On TVHEMM, Abela said that it was commonplace for lawyers to mediate between clients and other persons by requesting that police do not press charges or proceed with the case. He reiterated his position that the case in question was purely a civil case, and not a criminal case.

Abela also insisted that at no point did he intentionally seek out a Labour police officer in order to request that police do not press charges against the person involved. "When I called the police station I did not agree with someone to drop by the next day. I went there and then. And when I got there, I found out the police officer was a Labour supporter because he told me so."

Also invited to TVHEMM was the PN's executive committee president Marthese Portelli, who stepped in after Nationalist MP David Agius turned down the invitation to the programme. Agius himself said that he delivered the contents of the secret recording to the Commissioner of Police back in 2010, however the police has never investigated the allegation of pressure.

Abela insisted that he did not know this police officer. "I do not remember who he is, and I would not recognise him today. I do not even know what his grade is."

Abela was adamant that the issue would not undermine his position as PL deputy leader for party affairs. "I will keep doing my work. And I will keep working to keep all of our party clubs clean. I did not lie, or do anything wrong."

Abela also insisted that the Nationalist Party was not being honest with regard to its own involvement: he said that if Nationalist MP David Agius, or anyone else, felt that he had somehow impeded the course of justice, they only had to look at the fact that for the past two and a half years, the Police Commissioner did not proceed with the case.

"Furthermore, if David Agius felt that the Police Commissioner should have pressed charges, he could have filed a 'police challenge' that asks the courts to order the Commissioner to proceed with an investigation. Why didn't he?"

Abela accused the PN of having long-known about the recording, and kept it in reserve for the electoral campaign.

On her own part, Marthese Portelli accused Labour of engaging in double-standards, by lauding those who unveil information against the PN, while branding "whistleblowers" who do the same against the PL as "traitors" and "criminals."

Portelli claimed she was replacing MP David Agius because he was advised by the Police Commissioner not to speak about the case. "David Agius went to the Police Commissioner. He spoke with Police Commissioner. It was the Police Commissioner himself who told him not to comment because he would prejudice the case."

Portelli however avoided questions as to whether the PN has known about the case since 2010. "I don't know what David Agius told the Prime Minister," adding that it was not her role as president of the executive to say what the PN knows or does not know.

Portelli even defended Agius's academic track record, referring to the well publicised incident in which the MP was caught cheating during exams twice, which Abela made it a point to highlight.

"David Agius attended university when the Nationalist Party was in government. He failed his exams when the Nationalist Party was in government. He did not go to find a Nationalist to have his result changed," Portelli insisted.

Portelli accused Abela of lying, insisting that he when faced by PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil, he had said that he had never spoken to police about the case.

She insisted that it was "clear' that Abela had attempted to approach a Labourite police officer to try and make the case go away, "because by his own admission, it was a sensitive time for the party."

She also reiterated the Nationalist Party's calls for Abela's resignation.

santa jonqsok. m'ghadekx kredibbli ton.
Is Marthese Portelli who should resign first. Did she not deny for 3times that she was not involved when sending the pamphlets to scare the employees in the Public Service? Is she not involved that she breached the Data Protection? - Well he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.
Meta tqis li dan it-tape gie ikkopjat fuq tape u moghti li Agius professur ta l-ikkopjar: hemm fejn tista tasal aktar fuq l-altar tal-moralita politika f'Malta? U bil-haqq id-degree jew diploma jew certifikat dan inghata xorta lil Aguis jew dan ma pattix ghal ghemilu?
I compare this to what happened in 1987 when Dr. Fenech Adami instructed a motorist to drive on when stopped by the police in St Paul's Bay.