Joseph Muscat must answer for his actions – Bernard Grech

Bernard Grech says Muscat must answer for what he did as a politician, and what he did when he was no longer a politician, as he still had sensitive information from his time as Prime Minister

File photo: Opposition Leader Bernard Grech (centre) with PN deputy leaders Robert Arrigo (right) and David Agius (left)
File photo: Opposition Leader Bernard Grech (centre) with PN deputy leaders Robert Arrigo (right) and David Agius (left)

Joseph Muscat must answer for his actions following allegations that he received money from a Swiss firm linked to Steward Healthcare, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said on Sunday.

Grech hit out at Prime Minister Robert Abela during a brief interview on the party-owned Net TV station. He was critical at Abela for failing to take action against Muscat, who preceded him as Labour Party leader.

“Joseph Muscat must answer to what he did as a politician and what he did when he was no longer a politician, but still had sensitive information on hand from his time as Prime Minister,” Grech said.

“Whether the allegations are true or not, Muscat has a lot to explain.”

The allegations centre on four payments totalling €60,000 that Joseph Muscat received from a Swiss company that had previously received millions from Steward Healthcare when it took over a hospital privatisation deal from Vitals Global Healthcare.

The deal took place while Joseph Muscat was still Prime Minister, but the payments were transferred after he stepped down. Muscat maintained that the payments were compensation for consultancy services.

‘A parliament with no teeth’

Last week, Bernard Grech unleashed a scathing criticism of government during a special parliamentary sitting celebrating 100 years of Maltese parliaments.

On Sunday, he defended his fiery speech, saying the Nationalist Party will no longer be complicit in a “rotten political system”.

“They thought we would go to parliament and make elegies for the past, or celebrate how parliament has progressed,” he said. “But today, we have a parliament with no teeth.”

He criticised government MPs in the Labour Party’s parliamentary group for failing to condemn Konrad Mizzi for his actions towards parliament’s public accounts committee.

He failed to show up to three of the committee’s sittings when he was expected to testify on his involvement in the Electrogas power station deal. When he eventually turned up last week, he gave a rowdy ‘oral presentation’ while MPs failed to bring the sitting under control.

“Everyone must be held accountable,” Grech maintained.  

‘Budget promotion wasn’t enough to win Labour votes’

Grech briefly remarked on survey results that showed a marginal decline in Robert Abela’s trust rating, while support for the Labour Party remained unchanged throughout October.

He recalled that government spent almost €500,000 on Budget 2022 media promotion and pre-budget consultation meetings. Yet despite the the half-million spent, the Labour Party saw no increase in votes during the Budget month.

“The difference [between the PL and PN] is showing. When we do our work modestly, by spending a few thousands to spread a strong message, that message is eventually received by the people,” he said.

The same survey showed favourable results for Bernard Grech and the Nationalist Party. Both increased their standing by two to three percentage points compared to the previous month.

Muscat hits back

Shortly after Bernard Grech's interview, Joseph Muscat hit back at the Opposition leader on Facebook while insisting his work for the Swiss company had nothing to do with Malta or Steward Healthcare.

Tweġiba lill-Kap tal-Oppożizzjoni Forsi l-Kap tal-Oppożizzjoni, li evada t-taxxa, ma fehemx sew. Jien m'għamiltx xogħol...

Posted by Joseph Muscat on Sunday, November 7, 2021

"I was paid for the work I did abroad, declared it, and paid tax on it. If he wishes to, Bernard Grech can find a list of his own friends and the work they did when they stepped down as minister or when they were still members of parliament, on which Grech seems he has no problem with."

Muscat also recalled Bernard Grech's history of unpaid taxes, which were only settled a few months before the Nationalist Party's leadership election last October. 

Civil society reacts 

In reaction to the report on Joseph Muscat and the Swiss firm payment, pressure group #occupyjustice demanded immediate investigation into the legality of the transactions. 

“In the meantime, we expect Prime Minister Robert Abela to immediately distance himself and the Labour Party from Joseph Muscat,” the group said in a statement. 

Arnold Cassola, an independent candidate, similarly questioned whether the MFSA and FIAU have investigated the workings of Accutor, the Swiss firm Muscat received payments from. 

He noted that former partners of Wasay Bhatti, the person who runs Accutor, accused him of having used the Malta branch of Accutor for questionable financial payments. 

“If Accutor has not yet been investigated, then the MFSA and FIAU are accomplices in the plunder of Malta’s coffers.”

And given that Konrad Mizzi played a key role in the sale of hospitals to VGH and Steward, NGO Repubblika questioned whether Konrad Mizzi is also offering consultancy to the same company.