Café Premier deal | Busuttil says ‘deceitful’ Muscat must shoulder political responsibility

PN leader Simon Busuttil says government should stop payments to Café Premier directors; calls on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to shoulder political responsibility for ‘direct involvement in scandal’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to shoulder political responsibility for his “direct involvement in the Café Premier scandal,” and insisted that the government should stop payments to the company directors.

Addressing the PN faithful at the party’s headquarters, Busuttil pulled no punches and described the prime minister as being deceitful, claiming that Muscat showed his true colours when he was involved in the Café Premier deal.

“The prime minister’s word as no value, not least because he pledged to resign if the government failed to build the power station in two years, but most poignantly, due to his direct involvement in the Café Premier scandal,” he said.

“This is an obscene scandal which stinks of corruption because it directly involves the prime minister. Muscat spent €4.2 million out of the tax payer’s pocket to a private company in order to buy back the lease for which no rent was being paid. As a consequence, the taxpayer ended up paying tax arrears, outstanding rents, energy bills, and a brokerage fee,” Busuttil said.

Dubbing the deal as an “obscene scandal that stinks of corruption,” Busuttil claimed Muscat was directly involved and even gave the green light for the acquisition to go ahead.

“The Opposition’s criticism has been vindicated by the Auditor General’s report. The report made it clear that neither the payment nor the brokerage fee should have been made. But amidst all of this, the prime minister said that the government made a mistake and they rushed,” he said.

Busuttil argued that notwithstanding Muscat’s admission, he does not believe that it was truly a mistake.

“I do not believe that this was a mistake, this was intended, more so after it was revealed that the prime minister met with shareholder Mario Camilleri before the election. This is an obscene scandal to which political responsibility must be shouldered,” he argued.

The PN leader also argued that even if the deal was a mistake, the least the government could do was to stop further payments, and should not pay the remaining €1.2 million of the €4.2 million.

“If the prime minister truly believes that the Cafe Premier scandal was a mistake, then the government should at least stop further payments. €3 million have been paid so far from the agreed €4.2 million, and the government now has to stop the payments, as otherwise it would not be a mistake but intended,” he said.

At the beginning of his speech, Busuttil argued that Muscat also failed to deliver on his promise that he would resign if the power station were not built.

“Tomorrow marks the government’s two-year anniversary, I ask if any of you received an invitation for the opening of the new power station.  Not only has the power station not been built, but construction has not even started,” he quipped.

“Prior to the general election the prime minister pledged to instil a culture of political honesty, and it is now time for him to walk the talk and deliver on this pledge. In reality, however, the government is a whole pack of lies,” Busuttil argued.

The PN leader also took exception at the government’s decision not to sue the Café Premier directors in court, arguing that if the prime minister feared that proceedings would have taken long, then he should not have appealed the constitutional court’s judgment on the PN’s parliamentary seats.

“The PN has been denied of two parliamentary seats for two years, yet he appealed the judgment,” Busuttil remarked.

PN built on political honesty, party making a difference – Busuttil

Heralding the ‘new PN’, a bullish Busuttil explained that in spite of its parliamentary seat difference, the Opposition has still managed to make a difference. He explained that thanks to the PN’s insistence on the citizenship scheme, the fuel prices, the local council elections, as well as its role in ousting Manuel Mallia, people’s lives have improved.

Rallying the local council candidates, Busuttil argued that the party must also be built on honest politics.

“The PN’s foundations are being built on political honesty. I did not think twice and I immediately decided to suspend Michael Falzon and Ninu Zammit because the party’s reputation cannot be tarnished,” he said.

On the other hand, the Opposition leader argued that rather than defending the PN’s stance, the prime minister sought to defend the former PN ministers.

“The prime minister is a political opportunist who acted to what suited him and the party, and not what is right. Instead, Muscat should explain how he had given the amnesty to Ninu Zammit,” he said.

Dismissing claims that the Labour Party is an “underdog” for the upcoming local elections, Busuttil argued that in spite of the PL expected to retain a majority, the PN would not be disheartened and would do its best.

“We have begun a marathon and we will make it. We must bring the party back on its feet and make it a source of honesty and determination,” he added.