[WATCH] Ministers Chris Fearne and Ian Borg justify Keith Schembri’s actions

'Nobody above the law... but Simon Busuttil is repeating Egrant mistake', Chris Fearne says of Keith Schembri court saga

Chris Fearne and Ian Borg have justified Keith Schembri's decision to withdraw libel proceedings to avoid answering about 17 Black
Chris Fearne and Ian Borg have justified Keith Schembri's decision to withdraw libel proceedings to avoid answering about 17 Black
Ministers Chris Fearne and Ian Borg justify Keith Schembri's actions

Two senior government ministers have justified Keith Schembri’s decision to withdraw a libel case against Simon Busuttil to avoid answering questions on 17 Black.

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne and Transport Minister Ian Borg said Schembri was answering the same questions about 17 Black in a magisterial inquiry and urged people to await its outcome.

Schembri has defended his decision, insisting that he had legal advice not to answer questions on 17 Black in the libel case because this matter was already being treated in a magisterial inquiry. The Prime Minister’s chief of staff he was answering all questions put to him by the inquiring magistrate.

Questioned on separate occasions on Tuesday morning both senior ministers stuck to the Prime Minister’s hymn book. In Parliament, on Monday evening, Joseph Muscat defended Schembri’s actions insisting there was an ongoing inquiry on the same matter that Busuttil wanted to grill his chief of staff on.

READ ALSO: Keith Schembri withdraws 17 Black defamation suit to avoid being questioned

Fearne said that while he would await results of magisterial inquiry into 17 Black, it appeared that the former Opposition leader was repeating mistakes he made in the Egrant case by “jumping the gun”.

Nobody is above the law in Malta, and everyone has to ultimately answer to the courts, Fearne said when asked whether Schembri's decision to withdraw his libel gave credence to claims of corruption made by Busuttil.

There is a magisterial inquiry into Dubai company 17 Black, which had been requested by Busuttil. The company had been listed as a target client of the Panama companies that Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi set up after the 2013 election.

It later transpired that 17 Black was owned by Yorgen Fenech, one of the shareholders in the Electrogas Consortium that won the tender to build and operate the gas power station in Delimara.

Fearne insisted Busuttil was repeating the same mistake by arriving at conclusions about any possible illegalities by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, before waiting for the inquiry to be concluded.

Fearne was speaking to MaltaToday after a press conference on a new service for diabetes patients.

He insisted "the law applies to everyone" but added that he was surprised how Busuttil did not learn a lesson from the Egrant case.

"He (Busuttil) tried to prejudice the result of an inquiry, and the inquiry proved him wrong, so much so that the present opposition leader, Adrian Delia, wanted to dismiss Busuttil due to his strategy. And incredibly the PN is repeating the same mistake."

Fearne said he had "faith in [Malta's] courts", insisting he will wait for the results of that process.

Ian Borg said his position was not a question of defending Schembri. There were court rulings that prevented Schembri from speaking about the same subject matter that was being treated by a magisterial inquiry, he said.

Borg added that Schembri was an integral part of the country’s success under this government and urged people to wait for the outcome of the inquiry.

Borg was speaking to journalists after addressing a conference on cargo travel at Portomaso. Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi was aslo scheduled to address the conference but his seat remained empty. The organisers did not say why Mizzi failed to turn up.

Their comments come after the Prime Minister’s chief of staff was expected to testify on Monday about the secret Dubai company.

Busuttil had accused Schembri of receiving bribes through 17 Black, named in leaked e-mails as one of two companies that would pay $2 million to Schembri’s and Mizzi’s Panama companies.

Schembri refused to be cross-examined on the subject of the Dubai-registered company. insisting he had legal advice to the contrary.

After refusing to answer lawyer Jason Azzopardi's questions at least four time - with the court warning that it would take sanctions if he persisted in not answering - Schembri proceeded to withdraw his defamation suit, essentially allowing him to avoid responding to the questions.

Schembri later told the waiting press that he was "not scared at all" to answer and he would be "answering all questions in the ongoing magisterial inquiry" that Busuttil had called.

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