Muscat’s €21,000 Dubai weekend during crisis paid by third parties

Muscat said visit ‘not official’ and Standards czar accepted not to publish details of third-party who paid newly-resigned PM’s Dubai trip

Costs for a visit to Dubai by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s were paid for by a third party, a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life report has revealed.

Flights for the visit cost approximately €21,000.

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life found no ethics breach in Muscat’s visit to Dubai.

Opposition leader Adrian Delia and Democratic Party leader Timothy Alden had filed the complaint, inquiring over the cost of the visit and whether this was met by Muscat himself or by a third party.

In his report, standards commissioner George Hyzler said that a detailed explanation about the purpose of the visit and who paid for the trip was given by the former PM.

The commissioner also said that Muscat requested that details of the visit not to be unveiled in the public domain. “Since it appeared that the visit was private in nature, not related to official government business, and did not involve a breach of ethics, the Commissioner accepted Dr Muscat’s request to withhold publication of the details of the visit,” the report read.

The commissioner also concluded that the host of the visit could not have intended to influence Muscat’s decisions as Prime Minister, as he had already announced his resignation. “In addition, the host of the visit had no interest in legislation before Parliament or any commercial interest in Malta, so the visit did not represent a breach of the Code of Ethics for MPs,” the report read.

For the reasons cited, the commissioner chose to not uphold the complaints.

“What is relevant for the purposes of this investigation is the fact that the hospitality afforded to Dr Muscat, consisting of first-class flight tickets, transportation and accommodation for him, his wife and two children, was made when he had already given notice of his resignation as Prime Minister and by persons who had no direct or indirect interest in legislation before the House of Representatives or commercial interests in Malta. Dr Muscat effectively relinquished his position as Prime Minister on 13 January 2020, within two weeks of his return from Dubai. It could perhaps be argued that Dr Muscat would have been better advised to postpone the trip until he effectively resigned his position as head of government. However, he claims that this could not be postponed and in any event the complaint does not rely on the timing of the trip.” 

Muscat had flown on a holiday to Dubai in the company of his wife Michelle and children, just days after announcing his resignation as prime minister. Muscat had then already visited the Vatican City and Bethlehem ias damaging revelations continued to emerge on the proximity between Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech, the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri and Muscat.

Schembri, who is being investigated for homicide and tempering with evidence, also took his family for a three-day holiday on Thursday.

Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi published on his Facebook page a photo, presumably taken today on board the plane, showing the Muscats flying first-class to Dubai. Azzopardi noted that first-class seats, which afford more privacy, were even more expensive than business class.

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