PN to pay Keith Schembri for debts as Busuttil blasts at ‘obscene’ conflict of interest

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says Nationalist Party will not be intimidated after OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri threatens legal action against PN's media arm if €121,000 in outstanding dues are not paid to Kasco group of companies

The Nationalist Party will send a cheque to Keith Schembri at the Auberge de Castille tomorrow to settle the party’s debts to his companies and to clearly emphasize that it would not be intimidated by the OPM’s chief of staff strong-arm tactics, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Busuttil made the remarks in the wake of a report by PN news organ il-mument which on Sunday reported that the Nationalist Party received an official letter demanding payment of €121,000 in outstanding dues and accrued interests owed to the Kasco group, the paper and newsprint companies owned by the prime minister’s chief of staff.

The letter demanding payment refers to debts accrued before September 2013 by the PN’s former printing press which closed three years ago. The letter is said to have been received on Friday, two days after a motion tabled by independent MP Marlene Farrugia demanding that Keith Schembri be fired and investigated by parliament was defeated.

Insisting that the PN would not be threatened or intimidated by Schembri’s “threats”, the Opposition leader hit out at the prime minister’s chief of staff for threatening the Nationalist Party, arguing that he had also made a similar threat to Progress Press, the publisher of the Times, over a €1.5 million loan given by his company.

“It is an obscene conflict of interest for the prime minister’s chief of staff, who has repeatedly declared to having cut off his business interests, to threaten the Nationalist Party over money owed to his company.”

“We will not be intimidated or scared. Keith Schembri lied when he said he had given up control of his business interests, but the PN does not need him and tomorrow, it will send a cheque to Schembri at Castille,” Busuttil said while speaking during an interview on Radio 101.

Earlier, Busuttil hit out at the prime minister for having stood by  Schembri following the Panama Papers revelations, insisting that if he were prime minister, the OPM chief of staff - as well as former energy minister Konrad Mizzi - would have been sacked over his offshore interests.

“If a minister or the prime minister’s chief of staff of another country were revealed to have offshore interests, they would have immediately resigned or be sacked. If this happened in another European country, even the prime minister would have to shoulder his responsibility and resign,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader said people were getting disheartened by politics because the prime minister was refusing to take concrete action following the Panama Papers revelations.

“Not only has the prime minister refused to take any effective action, but he has vehemently Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. He instead tried to turn the tables on the PN and accused me in parliament of dirty politics and of spreading filth,” Busuttil said.  

“This is not the Café Premier scandal or the Gaffarena scandal. The Panama Papers revelations are more serious because they involve those closest to the prime minister. This will not go away,” he insisted.

Accusing the prime minister of tarnishing politics and of ridiculing the country by having addressed the Commonwealth anti-corruption forum in the midst of the Panama Papers revelations, Busuttil insisted that a future PN government would draw a line on tactics used by previous governments.

“The prime minister ridiculed Malta because he had the audacity to address an anti-corruption forum and he did so with a straight face as if nothing happened. He said he took tough political decisions, but what decisions did he take? Muscat has repeatedly insulted the people and kept Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schmebri,” Busuttil said.

The PN leader also argued that Malta now had a situation where the law not equal to all, with government officials being granted preferential treatment at the expense of the “mere mortals.”

Turning his attention on a court’s decision to allocate two parliamentary seats to the PN after mistakes in the vote-counting process, Busuttil said Muscat was undermining the right to vote and taking people for a ride. The PN leader also said that the government was creating another voting district by granting foreign nationals who purchased Maltese citizenship the right to vote.