[WATCH] ‘Muscat must resign’ says Busuttil, but Prime Minister strengthens resolve on Panamagate

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil: “Damage can no longer be undone by firing Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, but only if Muscat resigns as well.”

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses a press conference at Parliament.
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil addresses a press conference at Parliament.
Busuttil: Joseph Muscat must resign

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign, after his energy minister Konrad Mizzi and chief of staff Keith Schembri confirmed the extent of their offshore company and trust in Panama and New Zealand.

Their statements came in the wake of reports in the Australian Financial Review detailing emails from auditors Nexia BT revealed in the international Panama Papers leak of Mossack Fonseca documents.

Busuttil, who on Monday will open a motion of no confidence against the Labour government, has called on Labour MPs to elect a new prime minister.

“The damage can no longer be undone by firing Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, but only if Muscat resigns as well," the PN leader told a press conference at Parliament. "This does not mean the PN is calling for early elections, but for Labour MPs to pick a new prime minister,” Busuttil said.

One minister and the Labour Party whip have already said Konrad Mizzi should resign, but Labour’s eight-seat majority will in most likelihood vote against the motion of no-confidence. But Evarist Bartolo, who said Mizzi should resign, has already declared he will vote against the PN motion.

 

“Labour MPs have to decide on Monday whether they want Malta out of this state of uncertainty,” Busuttil said, claiming that the country’s institutions were not functioning as they were supposed to after his public call during a demonstration, for investigations into Konrad Mizzi’s ministry’s multi-million privatization contracts was not followed up by the police.

MaltaToday asked Busuttil why he had not opted for a motion of no confidence in Mizzi, which would have garnered support from some Labour MPs. “It might have been easier… but the PN Is not after what it suits us in the short-term, but after what is in the national interest. Even if Muscat fires Schembri and Mizzi, can the people trust him anymore? He has lost his moral authority and he won’t regain it.”

“Suspicion has grown that Muscat is personally involved in their financial set-ups, but even if he isn’t the fact remains that he is directly responsible for their appointment as minister and chief of staff in the first place. The issue is no longer about whether Mizzi and Schembri should resign, but about whether the public still has faith in Muscat to run the country?

“Hand on heart, can we trust the Prime Minister anymore? Even if he kicks out Mizzi and Schembri, more scandals will probably keep popping up during the remaining two years of this administration.”

Busuttil also insisted that he still believed that the offshore set-up Mizzi and Schembri used was circumstantial evidence of corruption, “particularly as they had opened them while they were minister and chief of staff.”

“Opening a company in Panama isn’t conclusive in and of itself, but it is very suspicious that they opened them after they were appointed minister and chief of staff.”

The PN leader said the Panama Papers revelations had harmed Malta’s financial services and remote gaming industries by reports showing that Keith Schembri was seeking to have his Kasco business group expand in gaming and paper recycling by using offshore companies.

“The only recycling that comes to mind is the recycling of money,” he said. “The damage to Malta’s reputation is no longer a risk, it has become reality.”

He dismissed statements released by the two men. “It shows their state of desperation and panic. We simply cannot believe what they say anymore.”

Prime Minister's reaction

Joseph Muscat reacts to calls from Busuttil to resign

In a reaction from the Middle East, where he led a business delegation to Jordan before addressing a global citizenship seminar in Beirut, Lebanon, Joseph Muscat said Busuttil had “taken a step back” on his allegations of corruption.

“He now speaks of suspicions, which is why we will rest on the facts and not on what the Opposition leader says,” Muscat said, who has refused to sack Mizzi before a tax audit is carried out on the minister’s offshore affairs.

“I won’t rest on what he says but on the facts that emerge. I will examine this information. What is sure is that the country is moving on. Had there been uncertainty in the country, Busuttil would have accepted to hold the confidence motion debate on Friday, and not postpone it to Monday.”

Muscat said he hoped Busuttil would accept the decision of the House on the motion. “I hope he won’t just not play along when it comes around.”

The Labour Party accused Busuttil of acting hysterically as a consequence of his “thirst for power”.

“Busuttil’s only strategy is to lie, attack, and create instability in the country,” the PL said in a statement. “Another bubble has now burst in his face, over Busuttil’s allegations [that Mizzi and Schembri] accepted bribes from Azerbaijan or from other government projects.”

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