Simon Busuttil: Konrad Mizzi must respect MEPs’ Panama Papers ‘summons’

PN leader says he is convinced he can beat Joseph Muscat at the next general election

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said minister Konrad Mizzi should respect an invitation from a committee of MEPs that was set up to investigate the Panama Papers
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said minister Konrad Mizzi should respect an invitation from a committee of MEPs that was set up to investigate the Panama Papers

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil yesterday said “there was no question” that minister Konrad Mizzi should respect an invitation from a committee of MEPs that was set up to investigate the Panama Papers.

“He should definitely go. There is no question about that,” Busuttil said, after addressing a rally at the PN’s Independence celebrations at the Floriana Granaries.

“However there is only one way in which we can now stem the damage caused to Malta’s reputation by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and that is their immediate dismissal.”

But Konrad Mizzi yesterday was adamant not to be brought into a debate as to whether he feels he should give MEPs an explanation of his financial affairs and why he chose to open an offshore company in Panama and a New Zealand trust.

“I have not received any correspondence from the committee, and I will reply to that correspondence when it arrives,” Mizzi reiterated, his stand unchanged in a week where MEPs from the European socialist party decided not to support Leo Brincat’s nomination to become a member of the European Court of Auditors.

The resounding vote rekindles debate on the ramifications of the Panama Papers for Mizzi, who is still expecting an external audit to be completed on his financial affairs, and for Joseph Muscat as his government prepares to take on the EU presidency in 2017.

“Mizzi’s and Schembri’s continued presence in Castille is increasing the damage every day,” Busuttil said yesterday. “And this was evident during Toni Abela’s and Leo Brincat’s hearing. If the Prime Minister persists with his wrong decision to keep them, people will only have one option left, and that is to vote Muscat out of office in the general election.”

Busuttil yesterday told PN supporters he was convinced he can beat Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the next general election, citing that he had already beat him during the 2003 referendum for Malta’s accession to the European Union.

At the time, Busuttil was head of the Malta-EU Information Centre, which was the chief information unit for all EU information released to the public before the 2003 referendum. 

“I’ve already beat him once; I can do it again,” Busuttil told Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi during a political activity at the Granaries in Floriana, where the PN was celebrating its annual Independence celebrations.

“My weapon then was simple: bringing the truth to the public and it is that same weapon which will lead me to win again.” 

Busuttil also claimed that rumours were going round of a possible election this November.

“We have to be prepared for anything because we want to be ready for any campaign, whenever it comes. We are in this to win it,” he said.

Earlier, when directly asked whether he believed that an election was imminent, Busuttil replied that it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative to decide when to call an election “but the PN will not be caught unprepared”.

A government source who spoke to MaltaToday earlier on had already remarked that it was likely that Mizzi would not attend a hearing before the Panama committee.

EU member states have in fact been advised by the Council of Ministers’ legal service that MEPs could not assume upon themselves the power of the European Commission to ask member states on how they have enforce taxation rules, unless they had clear allegations of contraventions or proof of maladministration.

Busuttil yesterday defended the PN’s ‘cedoli’ loan scheme, which has reportedly generated some €3 million. On the criticism that it was a secret scheme, Busuttil said the scheme offered loans, as opposed to grants. 

“Let’s talk about Egrant,” Busuttil said, diverting the question. “The company which no one knows to whom it belongs,” he said, referring to a shelf company set up by Nexia BT through Mossack Fonseca, which was named in connection to offshore companies set up for the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi.

“We know what ‘grant’ means and ‘E’ can easily stand for elections,” Busuttil suggested. “I don’t engage in dirty politics.”

TV presenter Salvu Mallia, who was invited by Busuttil to address the activity, said he wanted to see Busuttil elected prime minister because he was a true “gentleman”. 

“I voted Labour because I believed in Joseph Muscat’s promises. The PN sent a lot of people running straight into his arms but after I tasted what Muscat had to offer, I realized that it was only offered empty promises.”