Muscat accuses ‘elements within PN’ of hindering Toni Abela’s nomination

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat accused Beppe Fenech Adami of hypocrisy over the manner in which his Gharghur villa was extended, says Toni Abela fell victim to a dirty game

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has accused “elements within the Nationalist Party” of having played a dirty game to work against Malta’s nominee to the European Court of Auditors, Toni Abela, and discredit him.

Abela’s nomination to the ECA was turned down by MEPs in the Budgetary Control Committee after a gruelling hearing stunted by his lack of experience in top-level government posts, as well as being overshadowed by questions focusing on his political life both before and after the 2013 election.

Following Abela’s rejection, the government expressed its disappointment at “those who had an interest in tarnishing Abela’s reputation in the European Parliament,” and on Sunday, the prime minister insisted that whereas some Nationalist supporters were disappointed at Abela’s rejection, others, who he refused to name, played a dirty game at the expense of the outgoing Labour deputy leader.

Abela has since said that he would not pursue the nomination without the support of the budgetary control committee.

Addressing the Labour faithful in Dingli, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted that whereas the Labour Party always sought to put Malta’s interests first – notably by backing various PN nominees, including John Borg, John Dalli, Tonio Borg, and Louis Galea – the Opposition was not.

Particularly, the prime minister hit out at the Nationalist Party for hindering foreign investment, arguing that the consequences of such tactics were to be felt by Malta as a whole and by a future PN administration. The prime minister’s comments came in the wake of the energy ministry accusing the PN of threatening investment after party news organ il-mument reported a link between hospital investors Vitals Global Healthcare and a company in the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction known for money laundering and tax evasion.

Turning to the controversy surrounding the villa of Beppe Fenech Adami, the prime minister accused the PN deputy leader of hypocrisy over the manner in which he protested the ODZ development in Zonqor but then allowed planning illegalities to be carried out on his own property.

“If I had a situation like Fenech Adami's the least I would do is stay silent,” Muscat quipped.

Faced with these “revelations”, the Opposition leader would have sacked Beppe Fenech Adami immediately if he truly wants to deliver on his promise of high standards in public life, the prime minister insisted.

Echoing the details concerning Fenech Adami’s villa in Gharghur, the prime minister held that the value of the property had “exploded” as a direct consequence of the controversial development and that it includes several illegalities which cannot be sanctioned by MEPA.

The Labour Party claimed this week that Fenech Adami’s villa in Gharghur was developed outside the building zones in 2006 after having benefitted from a height extension that was against government policy, and that the development was down to a controversial measure by the then-PN administration which enlarged the development zones.

“The [then-PN] Cabinet had said that no one could build beyond three storeys, but just days later, made an exception for Beppe Fenech Adami,” Muscat said.

Fenech Adami has repeatedly denied of being given any form of preferential treatment for developing his house beyond its immediate limits, saying that the zoning of neighbourhood accorded the same rights to every other property owner, and also sued One News for libel.

Turning his attention on the instability in Libya, the prime minister insisted that all parties must join together as by doing so the country can reach a solution.

Earlier, Muscat hailed Malta’s economic growth rate of 6.2% and said that the GDP growth was almost three times that of the former PN government. He said that unemployment was down to 5,000 after it was close to 9,000 while wealth was now being redistributed among those in need.

He also said that the government was  open for business with everyone, irrespective of their political allegiances.