Busuttil welcomes Falzon’s apology, party suspension to remain in force

Opposition leader accuses Prime Minister of wishing to see exceptions being made to the rules, rather than on raising public standards.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil welcomed former minister Michael Falzon’s “unconditional apology” for failure to declare his overseas earnings.

“Mr Falzon's gesture acknowledges the highest standards that are expected of people holding public office or political positions,” Busuttil said in a statement. “Naturally, Mr Falzon’s suspension from the Nationalist Party will remain in force until the whole matter is cleared up, but I am sure the party structures will take his apology well into account in reaching their conclusions.”

Falzon issued an apology on Wednesday for his failure in retaining his earnings abroad without declaring them in the register of assets for MPs between 1987 and 1996.

Falzon, a MaltaToday columnist, admitted having held some €465,000 in architectural earnings in a Swiss account he set up during the 1970s for a job in the country, and retaining those earnings there without declaring them in the MPs’ register of assets.

“I acknowledge that although my fiscal position has long ago been regularised, this is not sufficient for a politically active person,” Falzon, until last week a member of the PN’s executive committee and of the government’s oil procurement committee, said.

He repatriated the funds some time before 2008 under a government amnesty.

Busuttil also hit out at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for “wishing to see exceptions to the rules”, rather than raising standards.

“This list is endless but includes the Ministerial Code of Ethics; Ministers’ behaviour in relation to their jobs, income and wealth; the engagement of MPs in public entities; public procurement; environment laws; public sector employment; the independence of the civil service and most recently, the blatant misuse of taxpayers' money in the Cafe Premier scandal under the personal direction of the Prime Minister himself,” he said.

He called on Muscat to agree to a parliamentary debate on a Bill to establish a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

“On behalf of the Opposition, I had tabled a motion initiating this process more than a year ago, insisting on its speedy enactment,” Busuttil said. “Yet, this initiative is still languishing in the indifference of a Labour Government that does not value high standards in public office.”

The Labour Party accused Busuttil of continuing to defend former minister Austin Gatt.

“He is asking Falzon and Ninu Zammit, but not Gatt, to pass on all information they have about their Swiss bank accounts, “ the PL said in a statement. “All three cases are identical which means that Busuttil is defending Gatt.” 

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