Scicluna: 'Up to Schembri whether to attend PANA committee'

Finance Minister refuses to be dragged into Panama Papers saga, insists that it is up to the chief of staff to decide whether to testify before the EP’s committee on Panama Papers

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna refused to be drawn into questions on whether the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri should appear before the European Parliament’s committee on Panama Papers, next month in Strasbourg.

“Keith Schembri should do whatever he feels is best for him,” the finance minister said, when asked by reporters.

Socialist MEP Ana Gomes, vice chairwoman of the EP, accused the Labour government of “embarrassing all socialist MEPs” whilst insisting that Schembri’s refusal to appear before the PANA committee could only be interpreted as “a sign that he cannot face us because he has something to hide”.

But according to Scicluna, Gomes was speaking on the basis of news reports in the media when speaking about the current political crisis in Malta.

"They speak about what they hear and read. Unfortunately they are reading about allegations that have not been proven," he said, adding that he found it shocking that rumours that risked Malta's reputation were spread without having been proven to be true.

Scicluna, together with social solidarity minister Michael Farrugia, was speaking at a press conference on the government's budgetary measure to address past grievances.

According to the minister, while in many cases claimants no longer had a legally valid case, either because of prescription or a number of other reasons, the government still felt to address these "injustices".

He said the government had so far allocated €8 million for the initiative, which he said would be administered in a similar fashion to the VAT refund scheme for past vehicle registrations.

Scicluna explained that the sum allocated for this purpose will be decided upon in each budget and the money will be administered by an appointed board.

He said the government had encountered two main obstacles, namely determining "who is owed what" and the " Eurostat definition of liabilities".

He said that the measure will be administered in this way because once a liability, or need to make a future payment, is recognized, it is immediately added to the government's financials.

Michael Farrugia said roughly 5,000 people from different sectors are expected to benefit from this compensation, which will not be taxed.

The workers identified, according to Farrugia, were former police corps employees that used to give services to government departments and joined the public service after January 1979; former port workers that had a license to work between April 4 1973 and June 1 2009; constables, sergeants and sergeant majors that were not paid for overtime done between January 1 1993 and 31 December 2009; and former Malta electricity board employees.