Minister files for defamation against Azzopardi over HSBC heist allegations

Carmelo Abela submits affidivadit saying he categorically denies having aided the HSBC heist mastermind with inside footage and forged keys

Carmelo Abela
Carmelo Abela

Minister Carmelo Abela filed a late-night defamation lawsuit on Friday, demanding that Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi answer for his claims linking him to the 2010 HSBC heist.

Abela has denied the allegations several times after Azzopardi first mooted the allegations by pardoned hitman Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’ about a sitting minster who would have been an accomplice in the hold-up. 

Abela was a former HSBC employee at the time.

In an affidavit he gave to the court, Abela said Azzopardi had directly alluded to him as being an accomplice in the 2010 heist, as a reaction to the minister’s earlier Facebook post. 

He denied “categorically and absolutely” of having been an accomplice in the HSBC hold-up, or having been an accomplice of the heist’s mastermind by providing the robbers with inside footage of the bank or forged keys. 

Azzopardi alleged Abela was promised €300,000 for his role in the heist. Abela denied this claim. 

“I am completely extraneous to these major crimes,” Abela said on the 2010 hold-up. “Throughout all these years, the police never spoke to me once about them, least of all investigated me. Under oath I categorically deny ALL the lies directed at me publicly by Jason Azzopardi, and that is why I have filed these legal proceedings to protect my integrity.” 

Abela said Azzopardi’s allegations were a “gross, malicious and dirty fabrication.” 

“I will deny these allegations before a court of law. I invite Azzopardi to immediately present proof of these false allegations, or that he takes them back without any reservation.”

Carmelo Abela said on 103FM that he saw no reason why he should resign his ministerial post pending the defamation suit. “I informed the Prime Minister of my action... I do not see any reason why I should step down because of these lies.”

Facebook allegations

Azzopardi made the allegation in a Facebook status he posted, in a reaction to disparaging comments made by Abela on Azzopardi over an ethics investigation concerning the minister.

In no uncertain terms, Azzopardi made the most blatant of accusations after having already mooted that HSBC heist suspect Vincent Muscat il-Koħħu had information on a Labour minister being involved in the major crime. “I am no saint... but better not to have been an accomplice in the HSBC hold-up,” Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi also claimed that the HSBC heist mastermind was threatening witnesses via Signal.

Abela has already denied the allegations. He was placed on the spot by the Nationalist Party media over claims by Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’, one of three men accused of having assassinated the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, that he can name a Labour politician whom he believes helped plan a heist on the HSBC Malta headquarters in 2010.

Abela was a former manager at HSBC until taking up formal government employment in 2014 and later becoming minister.

Vincent Muscat is seeking a pardon for information he has on various crimes preceding his role in the assassination of Caruana Galizia. Muscat has however not identified the man to the police, and instead shared details of the 2010 attempted heist, in which he was involved.

The claim first broke Nationaist MP Jason Azzopardi, who is lawyer to the Caruana Galizia family, claimed on 103FM in an interview with Andrew Azzopardi that the Prime Minister was aware of the information Muscat gave police in March 2020.

READ ALSO: Jason Azzopardi ‘shocked’ by PM’s reaction to minister's alleged involvement in HSBC bank heist