[WATCH] Prime Minister vows to resign if inquiry links him to Egrant

Prime minister Joseph Muscat says opposition leader Simon Busuttil should resign if no evidence is found in Egrant inquiry • Insists that outcome of the inquiry was not featuring at all in his calculations and reasoning as to when to call an election

Joseph Muscat: 'I am confident the inquiry will not find anything'
Joseph Muscat: 'I am confident the inquiry will not find anything'

Prime minister Joseph Muscat vowed today that if the inquiry led by magistrate Aaron Bugeja were to find any evidence or suspicion linking him or his wife Michelle to secret Panama company Egrant, he would resign immediately.

"I am confident the inquiry will not find anything, because I know there is nothing to find, but if by any chance and for any reason, the inquiry concludes there is some sort evidence against me, or my wife - even some suspicion - of course I will assume my political responsibility and resign immediately," he said, while being interviewed on One TV.

“But on the other hand, if the inquiry finds no such evidence – as I expect the outcome to be, because I know there is nothing to find – I equally expect opposition leader Simon Busuttil to assume his political responsibility and leave. After all the allegations he made against me, I would expect him to resign immediately, but that would be up to him ultimately.”

Muscat said that the outcome of the inquiry was not featuring at all in his calculations and reasoning as to when to call an election.

“My priority is safeguarding the jobs we have created and maintaining the economic success we have secured for our country,” he said. “I am not focusing on defending myself or those around me.”

Muscat said he could think no better way for the country to celebrate Worker’s Day than with having the lowest-ever number of people registering for work, the record number of jobs created and the decision to raise the minimum wage.

“At a time when some are promoting political tribalism, we are promoting national unity with a vision for the future,” he said. “But we need to recognise that the opposition is negatively affecting the economic well-being of the country and in my position I need to ensure that we maintain our economic growth.”

Muscat said that Busuttil had so far failed to respond to his challenge to have OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, investigate the accounts of PN MEPs, following allegations published in KullHadd on Sunday that said the three MEPs were channelling EU allowances to the PN, against EU legislation.

The newspaper claimed that David Casa, Therese Commodini Cachia and Roberta Metsola had set up offices in the PN’s headquarters in Pieta’ and were paying for the space out of allowances they receive from the EU for other purposes.

The amount of this allowance in 2017 is €4,342 per month.

The three MEPs later published audit statements, dated March 2017, certifying that “the public funds made available by the European Parliament to the MEP have been used in full compliance with the established rules of the European Parliament”.

The Nationalist Party said in a statement that all MEPs are bound by transparency commitments and all funds allocated to the MEPs are declared, audited and published. All PN MEPs have in fact had their accounts audited every year since being elected, the party said.

Muscat said that Busuttil consistently cracked at the first hint of pressure, as he did when he received an sms message from db Group.

“When faced with allegations against me or those close to me, I immediately launched a magisterial inquiry,” he said. “Busuttil too went to court, but only to try and stop the publication of any invoices proving the accusations against his party.”

Muscat said that it was now also evident that the PN had been using MEPs’ allowances to fund its operations.

“I called on him to have OLAF investigate the MEPs’ accounts, but he has not yet reacted to my challenge.”

The prime minister called on people to gather in Valletta this afternoon for the Labour Party’s mass meeting.

“I know that some people, even Labour supporters, agreed with Busuttil on the Panama issue, believing I could have acted differently, and I can accept that,” he said. “But as we have seen in the case of the cedoli, the db Group and the MEPs allowances, he is all talk but no substance.”

PN reaction

In a statement, the Nationalist Party said that Muscat’s words not only confirmed his own personal instability but also that he was forcing upon the country.

“Employers and workers alike acknowledge this instability, having been completely forgotten by Muscat,” it said. “That was apparent this morning when, on Worker’s Day, he took to the Labour media only to defend himself in the crisis he finds himself in.”

The PN said that Labour supporters who had the best interests of their party at heart felt betrayed by Muscat.

It noted that Godfrey Farrugia, in his resignation from Labour whip on Saturday, explained that “the faith of the people in a historical Labour ideal should never have been betrayed and used to promote the agenda of a few who have clearly shown that they do not have the national interest at heart or, even more so, in their minds.”

The party said that Maltese and Gozitans would be gathering in St Julian’s in the afternoon to make it clear that Muscat should leave immediately because he had no place in politics.