‘We did not have Aikon file before us when we decided on presidential pardon’ – Gonzi

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi says that cabinet did not have Aikon file before it when it decided to approve a presidential pardon for George Farrugia.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi poses for pictures with a young higher secondary chemistry student and her teacher.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi poses for pictures with a young higher secondary chemistry student and her teacher.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi confirmed that Cabinet did not have the file dealing with Aikon Limited before it when it took the decision to approve a presidential pardon for George Farrugia.

Gonzi was speaking during a visit to Higher Secondary 6th Form in Naxxar, where he was mobbed by throngs of students waving EU flags and singing Nationalist anthems.

Gonzi fielded questions about whether cabinet was aware of the file pertaining to oil trading company Aikon Limited, which was investigated by the Tax Compliance Unit (TCU) in 2011 after the secret service passed on invoices revealing suspicious activity to the Finance Ministry.

The Labour Party has leapt upon this revelation, which it is insisting represents proof that the Nationalist Government knew of possible commissions being paid on Enemalta oil transactions, and did not investigate the issue.

During a brief address, Gonzi was asked whether Cabinet had the Aikon Limited file before it when it took the decision to grant a presidential pardon to Farrugia, who is the owner of the company which is now at the centre of the Enemalta oil-purchasing commissions scandal.

 "No we did not have the file concerning Aikon before us, and I do not feel that we needed to have it," Gonzi said categorically.

"Before us we had the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner. A responsible cabinet decided based upon the recommendations of the AG and the Commissioner, and their recommendation was to issue the pardon."

He went on to hit out at the Labour Party for, he said, "criticising even this decision when it was the most powerful tool I could have issued as prim Minister to investigate irregularities and take steps against those responsible."

The Nationalist leader also said that "there is nothing to investigate" in the manner in which Aikon's invoices were passed from the secret service to the finance ministry, and were then passed on to the TCU for investigation - given that it was the first time in the last nine years that this happened.

"There is nothing to investigate. Actually, it shows that the system is working fine," he insisted.

"If you have a service, which might have been the secret service, police, or the armed forces, that notices that there is something that needs to be investigated, and that it believes that the investigation can be carried out more effectively if this is handed off to another authority, then this is what should be done  - without the interference of any politician."

"In this case, this is what happened," he insisted, adding "it is a mistake to expect a politician to interference in some way to stop this process."

"This was not done," Gonzi insisted, adding that the investigation was carried out, and added "the results of the investigation will be published at the opportune time."

Asked whether he supports Fenech's involvement in the way the flagged invoices were handed off to the TCU for tax avoidance investigations, Gonzi insisted that Fenech acted correctly, while grasping the opportunity to take a pot shot at the Labour Party over the Toni Abela case.

"He did not stop a process, which is what he should have done. He allowed the process to go on, and not interfere like others do by interfering so that an investigation does not happen."

He insisted that the difference between the Nationalist Party and the Labour party is that "when the PN has an allegation, it insists that an investigation is done - and not by politicians but by those who are competent."

The Nationalist leader said that this is a far cry from the recent revelations that the Labour Party, when faced with evidence of wrongdoing, "insists that no investigation is done."

Asked to comment directly about the latest revelations in the Toni Abela case, Gonzi however held back from commenting.

"I think such a comment is best made by the Leader of the Opposition who has a lot to answer for in this regard."

"There is nothing to investigate. Actually, it shows that the system is working fine," Gonzi insisted. Certainly! Very fine indeed (mhux hekk!) Yes of course, if you were to gauge it by results and failures obtained! So the Secret Service is involved, the MFEI is involved, the TCU is involved, and God knows who else, and no one was capable of finding any wrongdoing or business connections or even one single paper-clip to hold the docs together. Jahasra! Was this a failed game at passing the buck or playing the game of hiding the obvious?
So now the buck has been passed by Dr Gonzi on the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General but this does not exculpate him and his Cabinet from the responsibility of not looking up all the information about the case before deciding on the presidential pardon.