Simon Busuttil has ‘olive branch’ for Adrian Delia’s beleaguered ally

Solidarity for Pierre Portelli is a reminder that Delia too is hamstrung by Egrant

It would be a
It would be a "travesty of justice" to prosecute Pierre Portelli, Simon Busuttil said

Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has come out in support of Pierre Portelli, the former Malta Independent director, over fears he might have to face charges over falsified declarations of trust submitted to the Egrant inquiry.

Busuttil is resisting a demand by PN leader Adrian Delia to resign from the PN’s parliamentary group for his role in endorsing the allegation in 2017 that Egrant was owned by the Prime Minister’s wife.

But Delia himself is refusing to sack Portelli, his advisor and head of the PN’s media, for his own role in the Egrant affair, claiming he is not a politician.

Busuttil, who in 2017 had told the press there was “no reason” why Magistrate Aaron Bugeja should not have enough evidence to place Joseph Muscat under criminal investigation, said yesterday that prosecuting Portelli would be a “travesty of justice”.

With the PN currently in the throes of a polite rebellion by MPs loyal to the ex-PN leader, Busuttil’s message was a subtle reminder that even Delia is hamstrung by Portelli’s own part in the Egrant affair.

Busuttil joined a call by Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina calling for solidarity with Portelli, warning that any criminal action against the journalist would be “a clear case of a frame-up”.

With the PN pre-empting possible criminal charges against protagonists in the Egrant saga who gave false witness, Busuttil said that any such prosecution against Portelli would be akin to something “straight out of a dictatorship”.

“If we want to live in a democracy, we cannot let these things pass,” Busuttil said.

Portelli had, during the Egrant inquiry, submitted two declarations of trust for the Panamanian company to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja. The documents, however, turned out to be fraudulent, containing falsified signatures.

On Friday, Karol Aquilina said Portelli had been doing his job as a journalist in the Egrant matter, and had done so despite the risk to himself and his family. He also encouraged others to publicly offer their support to Portelli.

Portelli is, however, being accused by Labour politicians of having taken a direct part in the media strategy that advanced Egrant as an unimpeachable story.

On 1 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 shown 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 ignored the magistrate’s advice.”

Portelli is now defending his role in the Egrant saga, arguing that he never gave credence to the 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.”

He had previously told LovinMalta that his source was neither the sacked Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova, nor Daphne Caruana Galizia or former police officer and Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit official Jonathan Ferris.

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