Egrant | Adrian Delia won’t sack Pierre Portelli because ‘he is not a politician’

Delia’s reasons not to sack former Independent director Pierre Portelli from the PN echo the similar line from Joseph Muscat on Keith Schembri

Take this as a scoop... said Pierre Portelli on Xtra
Take this as a scoop... said Pierre Portelli on Xtra

The Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has claimed his head of communications and advisor Pierre Portelli – who gave Magistrate Aaron Bugeja copies of what were falsified ‘declarations of trust’ of the Egrant Inc. offshore company – should not be sacked from the PN.

Delia wants his predecessor and party rival Simon Busuttil to resign from the PN parliamentary group, apart from having removed him from his ‘good governance’ portfolio.

“It is what is best for the party right now, in order to strengthen its fight against corruption. Not to dismantle it, like some are saying, but to improve its credibility.”

That would mean Busuttil would still stay in Parliament but not as a Nationalist MP, but as an independent MP in the same way he did with Giovanna Debono, after her husband was charged in court over allegations of using his government job to carry out jobs for Gozitan constituents of his wife.

But Delia doesn’t think that former Malta Independent director and his current head of media, Pierre Portelli, should shoulder the same responsibility – it was Portelli who indeed had stated on TVM’s Xtra in the run-up to the 2017 snap election that he had seen the never-published declarations of trust that the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed had shown Michelle Muscat, wife of prime minister Joseph Muscat, to be the owner of the Panamanian company Egrant.

Pierre Portelli's intervention comes at 52:08

The Egrant inquiry has now found that Portelli presented falsified declarations of trust to the magistrate, after experts found that the signatures on them were not genuine.

“He is not a politician, so he does not have to take political responsibility,” Delia said. “Back then, he did exactly what the law required him to do... he had an obligation to pass the documents to the magistrate.”

Delia said that he “absolutely” does not think that Portelli should be asked to resign at this point.

“So far, I don’t have a shred of doubt that [Portelli] did his job and observed his obligations under law. But if conclusions were to show otherwise… I don’t care who it is, whoever breaks the law should face the consequences and shoulder responsibility.”

Delia’s reasoning will not go unnoticed: even Muscat attempted to defend his chief of staff Keith Schembri, who opened various secret Panama companies after Labour’s election in 2013, by refusing to sack him on the basis of not being an elected official. The aftermath of the Egrant inquiry has opened a wide fissure inside the PN, with the parliamentary group split down the middle between Delia loyalists and Busuttil’s ‘rebels’.

Pierre Portelli is now defending his role in the Egrant saga, arguing that he never gave credence to a crucial document that fell into his possession. “I never published this document or even said in public that I believed it to true. When I received this document, I did what any responsible person in the world would have done and handed it over to the inquiring magistrate. I actually handed in this document after the general election, so Labour’s spin about this being a political move makes no sense at all.”

On 1st June, two days before the general election, Portelli confirmed on Xtra he had seen the documents with his own eyes. “I am the only one amongst you who has also seen the documents that the whistleblower had showed the magistrate,” Portelli told the other journalists on the panel. “Take it as a scoop if you want, but I couldn’t publish these documents because the Russian embassy had warned the whistleblower that it wouldn’t help her if she ignores the magistrate’s advice.”

 

Portelli had already told Lovin Malta that his source was neither Efimova, Daphne Caruana Galizia nor former police officer and FIAU official Jonathan Ferris.

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