‘Muscat reaping corrupt rewards of his regime with exotic birds ruse’ – Repubblika

How can loss-making exotic birds company be paying former PM €12,000 a month, anti-corruption NGO asks

Former prime minister Joseph Muscat
Former prime minister Joseph Muscat

The anti-corruption NGO Repubblika has hit out at revelations on former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s €12,000 monthly retainer with a company dealing in exotic birds, that is owned by gaming entrepreneur Johann Schembri.

Muscat was handed the lucrative €11,800 monthly consultancy contract by the casino tycoon, less than a year after he oversaw a government deal involving the Dragonara Casino that went to Schembri’s consortium in 2019.

Nine months after the deal, monthly payments of €11,800 started being paid to Muscat via a loss-making exotic bird company owned by Schembri, called Organicum, as part of a consultancy contract worth €141,600 annually.

“Muscat’s official explanation about this consultancy contract is simply unbelievable... they want us to think that a company earning just €13,000 a year selling exotic birds is ready to appoint a consultant on €12,000 a month. Muscat could have been a genius, which he is not, but no company will pay a consultant 10 times as much as it earns,” Repubblika said.

Repubblika said Muscat’s audacity was knowing that he was out of reach of corruption investigators, and that he could rally fanatical supporters by his side while threatening magistrates, police and prosecutors.

“Muscat is doing the same with journalists who tried to uncover his game, discrediting them as he did with Daphne Caruana Galizia... despite no longer being PM he is still trying to reap the corrupt rewards of his regime.”

Earlier last week, Joseph Muscat denied wrongdoing in the wake of revelations that show how a company he worked for just after resigning from prime minister was linked to the hospitals concessionaire.

A consultancy firm he worked for, Accutor, had been previously set up as VGH Europe. VGH was the company awarded a lucrative hospitals concession by the Maltese government in 2015. The deal was described by the Auditor General as pre-arranged and pointing towards collusion by the investors and government officials.

Muscat claims the work he did for Accutor was documented and above board. He did not explain how the same company received funds from Steward Healthcare, the American company that bought the hospitals concession when VGH went belly up.

Muscat outrightly denied ever receiving money through corruption when asked point blank, and has asked for the recusal of the magistrate leading an inquiry into the Vitals contract, claiming “obvious leaks” from the work being done by the Magistrate.