Cassola highlights rift between Abela and Muscat in animated debate

Veteran poltician's claim sparks angry response from one of Muscat's lawyers during radio talk show

Prof. Arnold Cassola speaking on Andrew Azzopardi's RTK talk show
Prof. Arnold Cassola speaking on Andrew Azzopardi's RTK talk show

Sparks flew in a heated exchange on live radio this morning, between one of Joseph Muscat’s lawyers, Charlon Gouder, and independent politician Arnold Cassola, over an alleged internal rift in the Labour party between Muscat and Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Gouder was speaking as a guest on Andrew Azzopardi’s radio discussion program on Saturday morning. Azzopardi told Gouder that he had information which indicated that the opposite was true. 

The radio host asked Gouder about the possibility that the disgraced former prime minister could be planning a return to politics, this time as a candidate for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Gouder replied that although Muscat had already said that he was carrying out non-political activity, in the past weeks “public pressure had taken root for his return to politics.” 

“I understand discussions are currently underway between the Prime MInister and Joseph Muscat, which I am not privy to. When the time comes for a public pronunciation it will be made,” prompting Azzopardi to point out that Muscat was taking a long time to think about it, with just 99 days before the elections.

Independent politician, Prof. Arnold Cassola, who was also a guest on the program concurred with Azzopardi, saying that he had “information from Brussels saying that the Socialists were very divided on whether to have the winner of OCCRP’s 2019 “Man of the Year in Organized Crime and Corruption" award in their midst.”

“You should be ashamed!” interrupted Gouder, shouting, before challenging Cassola to present his evidence in court.

Gouder became irate and started shouting at the professor, demanding evidence of any court having found Muscat guilty of anything. “I am not interested in courts, I am interested in evidence,” replied Cassola cooly. 

 “If you have some new proof of corruption we will go, right now, to the Commissioner of Police and hand it over! Do you have it? Answer me! Stop preaching from the pulpit!”  

Cassola told the talk show host that Gouder, who is assisting the Fisheries Department in other cases, “seemed to be drawn to bad smells, even a political stink, because he is Muscat’s lawyer. But he is doing it for free.”

Gouder pivoted to the defensive, accusing Cassola of a making “personal attack” against him.

“I am not attacking [you personally],” the politician replied. “I am attacking filth." Raising his voice in order to be heard over Gouder's objections, Cassalo said "One. I will not go to [police Commissioner Angelo] Gafa because he’s there to block proceedings involving political filth.”

The Commissioner had been put in place to obstruct prosecutions against politicians involved in corruption, Cassola repeated. “Yes. I said it, I say it again and will continue to do so,” to the backdrop of Gouder’s loud protestations.

The veteran politician also said that Muscat had accepted thousands of euros worth of gifts from Tumas heir Yorgen Fenech, despite having been informed by the Malta Security Services that Fenech, currently indicted for organising the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was a suspect.

By explaining why, Muscat had confirmed that he had received them, said Cassola. “He invites him to birthday parties, goes lunching with him at his ranch, with a suspected murderer.”

“Proof number two. Keith Schembri, under oath, said ‘everything I was aware of, I had notified Joseph Muscat about.’ Proof Number three: under oath Konrad Mizzi said that everything I was aware of, I had told Joseph Muscat about.”

“Vitals, Electrogas, Montenegro, one after the other,” said Cassola, to a background of shouting from Gouder.

The program host asked why Gouder had become so angry, saying his rage had frightened him…”I was frightened,” replied Gouder, “by Professor Cassola. He is comfortable preaching from his pulpit and posting messages on Facebook, but when you tell him to give you concrete evidence of corruption, he cannot.”

“It’s not going to be found,” replied Cassola. “Gafa is never going to bring him to testify.”

Gouder insisted that there was no court decision against Muscat that could somehow justify or lead to what Cassola was saying. “So why did he resign?” asked Azzopardi.

Gouder said Muscat had not sued for libel “because he would have to spend days coming and going to court to file libels.”

“Is his reputation not important enough for that?” asked the host. “His reputation is in the minds of the people,” replied the lawyer, insisting that there was “nothing that could in some way dirty or impugn Dr Joseph Muscat.”

Cassola agreed that there were many indoctrinated supporters on both sides of the political divide. “I think Joseph Muscat’s best success was to cultivate an “anything goes” culture. ‘I will let you work if you let me work.’ We appoint Musumeci to make laws with loopholes, on purpose, and which he then uses himself. He was engaged by Joseph Muscat to facilitate construction.” Quoting activist Wayne Flask, Cassola said that Flask had asked, on TV discussion program Popolin, who had written the building regulations? “He did!”