‘No sitting MPs implicated,’ Abela addresses disability benefits scandal

Prime Minister Robert Abela says the benefits scandal was already known to Castille and was reported to police

Robert Abela addressing journalists on Tuesday
Robert Abela addressing journalists on Tuesday

No sitting Member of Parliament is implicated in the scandal involving numerous individuals fraudulently obtaining disability benefits they were not eligible for, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Tuesday.

"I am convinced that no MP has ever directed someone to commit any irregularities," reiterated Abela several times.

Addressing the matter during the inauguration of a new Olympic swimming pool, Abela said that this is not new information, as Castille was the first to bring the case to the attention of the police.

He added that the case was initially revealed by Castille and was first reported to the police by Castille when the permanent secretary noted certain irregularities.

"It's important to remind you that what came out on Sunday was not a new discovery. In fact, I had already made a decision on this case that led to the expulsion of a member of parliament," Abela recalled.

Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti, who is directly implicated in the benefits racket, resigned from parliament in December 2021  after being interrogated by the police regarding the investigation into what, at the time, were "allegations of falsification of medical certifications."

On Sunday, the Times of Malta revealed further details of the social benefit fraud perpetrated by Grixti.

The family doctor used to provide people with a package of falsified medical certificates and documents, which they later used to claim severe disability benefits amounting to more than €400 per month. 

The fraudulent exercise benefitted around 800 people and police have been charging the beneficiaries with social benefit fraud.

However, despite Grixti having been interrogated by the police, no charges have yet been filed.

When pressed on whether individuals within Castille's customer care staff or OPM officials had directed people to the fraudulent scheme, Abela insisted this was not the case.

"I will not comment on the involvement, or lack of involvement, of individuals because there are ongoing investigations," he stated. He also noted that the involvement of a former Labour MP has not been proven correct until now.

Abela also mentioned that a system within the Social Policy Ministry, designed to flag fraudulent claims, had detected several suspicious cases.

Late on Tuesday, the Ministry for Social Policy and Children's Rights said this system led to the suspension of 141 cases and the planned recovery of €2.1 million in undeserved payments. As of now, €330,000 has been successfully recouped.

Abela concluded that he had a clear conscience for not addressing the scandal during his Sunday interview with ONE.

He emphasised that he had acted promptly in both aspects as a Prime Minister: ensuring the MP's resignation and reporting the matter to the police.