Panama Papers | Zammit Lewis ‘convinced’ Muscat will decide in the coming days

[AUDIO] Asked about the identity of the company carrying out the tax audits, Edward Zammit Lewis says audit is being carried out 'at arm’s length' from the government

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis
Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis

Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis is “convinced” that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will be taking a decision over Panama Papers “in the coming days”.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference convened by the Labour Party, the minister expressed his confidence in the Prime Minister’s strategy, arguing that Muscat was listening to the people, was looking at the facts but is also ready to decide in the national interest.

“Contrary to Simon Busuttil, who accuses Labour of mudslinging whenever his MPs are put in the spotlight but thinks that all Labour ministers should resign, we know what political responsibility is. Political responsibility, where relevant, will be shouldered,” Zammit Lewis insisted.

“I am convinced that a decision will be taken in the coming days.”

The prime minister has been under pressure to sack both Mizzi and Schembri following revelations that they both hold offshore trusts in New Zealand and companies in Panama. Muscat has however insisted that he would wait for the outcome of the tax audits.

Asked about the identity of the company carrying out the tax audits, Zammit Lewis stressed that the audit was being carried out “at arm’s length” from the government and that the results would be made public in due course.

“Muscat has a track record for taking action against wrong-doing and I have no reason that a decision will be taken in due course,” Zammit Lewis said, adding that it was necessary to carry out investigations rather than act on all unfounded claims.

The Labour press conference was convened to challenge Busuttil to take action against PN deputy leader Mario de Marco, after a MaltaToday report revealed that Pierre Sladden, one of the businessmen embroiled in the Panama Papers revelations had his company Redmap Constructions carry out €34,000 in works on properties owned by de Marco back in 2011.
De Marco never paid for the works until last month when de Marco requested an invoice on the works Redmap carried out, after the Allied group in March launched an inquiry into alleged bribes paid to its former managing director, Adrian Hillman.

Zammit Lewis argued that given that Busuttil was constantly urging Labour MPs to resign over allegations made against them, then using the same principle, the PN should take action against his own MPs.

“Whatever the outcome of the investigations into this case, Busuttil has insited he would take action at any hint of corruption, and this is in fact the case,” Zammit Lewis said.

He went on to question why the bill for the works was coincidentally paid off the moment Hillman’s case was published, despite the fact that the works were not completed.

Zammit Lewis added that this was a “clear breach of ethics for ministers, who are not allowed to accept any gifts.”

He further insisted Busuttil is “a politician of double standards,” who encourages resignations and then doesn't enact them in his own party.

He went on to criticise the PN for calling for resignations every time suggestions were made about the government but then dismissing criticism made against the PN as “mud slinging”, and dragged his feet in taking any sort of action. 

In a reaction, the Nationalist Party said that Zammit Lewis should have given a statement issued by de Marco “more attention”.

It said that Zammit Lewis should stop “repeating the lies” of Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. The PN insisted that if Muscat were truly serious, he would have sacked the two on the spot.

The PN also said that Muscat had not stated who owned the third company in Panama that a Nexia BT representative was asking about.