Opposition question Mizzi’s absence as they ask about Azerbaijan visits

Opposition leader and MPs demand explanation as to why Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi was absent from parliament as they were asking questions related to his ministerial visits to Azerbaijan

The Opposition have questioned why Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi was not present in Parliament to face supplementary questions with regards his ministerial visits to Azerbaijan.

Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi had questioned Mizzi how many ministerial visits to Azerbaijan he had undergone since Labour’s election to government in March 2013. Responding on Mizzi’s behalf, health parliamentary secretary Chris Fearne said that Mizzi had visited Azerbaijan on ministerial duties three times- in March 2014 for a meeting with a minister on a collaboration project, in September 2014 for the opening of a gas pipeline, and in December 2014 as part of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s delegation.

Mizzi was accompanied by his private secretary during his March and September visits.

However, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil questioned why Mizzi had not told the public beforehand about his visits to Azerbajian and why he wasn’t accompanied by ambassadors, consuls and journalists during his December visit.

Fearne retorted that Busuttil hadn’t informed the public prior to his upcoming visit to China, causing an uproar amongst the Opposition benches with Busuttil saying that taxpayers will not fork out the money for his visit.

“A few weeks after his visit to Azerbaijan, the Auditor General released a report saying that Mizzi had interfered personally in a tender granted to Azerbaijani state-owned company SOCAR, a decision that resulted in a loss of €14 million from our taxes,” Busuttil said.

Shadow energy minister Marthese Portelli questioned whether SOCAR representatives have ever visited Malta, how many times, who they met and who they were accompanied with. Deputy PN leader Beppe Fenech Adami questioned who the Prime Minister’s December delegation was composed of?

Government whip Godfrey Farrugia could not explain the minister’s absence.

“We’ve already lost Mizzi’s wife, and now we’ve list Mizzi himself,” Fenech Adami quipped.

At one point, Busuttil demanded that Speaker Anglu Farrugia suspend the sitting until Mizzi enter the sitting, a request the Speaker was unable to fulfill. 

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