Bernard Grech hits back at Abela over failure to axe Labour MP: ‘What are you scared of Prime Minister?’

Opposition leader Bernard Grech insists he has no pending tax issues and the Prime Minister is only trying to cover up for Rosianne Cutajar when he raises the matter

Opposition leader Bernard Grech
Opposition leader Bernard Grech

Robert Abela’s failure to axe Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar from the parliamentary group is the result of fear to go after “the big fish”, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said.

He accused the Prime Minister of “going after the small fry” and urged him once again to remove Cutajar from the Labour parliamentary group after she breached ethics and is the subject of a tax probe.

The Opposition leader said Cutajar should be axed from the Labour parliamentary group to safeguard Malta's reputation. “What are you scared of Prime Minister? The PN wants politics to be in the interest of the common good. Not in the interest of the few but in the interest of the many.”

Grech pushed back against Abela’s remarks that the only tax investigation he knows about is the one involving the Opposition leader.

“Despite knowing that I have no pending tax issues and I also have a certificate to show for this from the Tax Commissioner, [the PM] is trying to put the onus on me in a bid to cover up for his friend,” Grech said.

The reference is to Grech’s own tax issues prior to becoming PN leader. The Opposition leader had evaded paying tax over several years and the outstanding bill was only settled before the leadership contest.

Cutajar was found to have breached the code of ethics when she failed to declare income derived from a brokerage fee on the sale of an Mdina property to Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect, Yorgen Fenech.  She is also the subject to a tax investigation.

Grech accused Abela of choosing to protect his friend over the country’s reputation.

“Abela adopts schoolyard politics and as always, whenever he is with his back to the wall, the Prime Minister tries to blame others for his failings,” he added.

In a press conference today, Abela said he would not pass judgement on an episode in which Cutajar was contradicting claims by property seller, Joe Camilleri, whose affidavit alleged that the MP was to be paid a brokerage fee. The affidavit was penned by Cutajar’s own colleague, the Labour MP Ian Castaldi Paris.

The ethics report will be discussed by a parliamentary committee on Monday when Standards Commissioner George Hyzler will testify.