Muscat claims he followed rules on gifts, but does not say more on Fenech timepiece he accepted

Prime Minister claims revelations on the Bvlgari watch gifted to him in 2014 by Yorgen Fenech are being leaked to press by ‘by someone who is directing the accused’

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has claimed he has followed the codes and rules related to gifts he received during his premiership, but made no specific reference to the Bvlgari watch he was gifted by 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech in 2014, who stands accused of being the mastermind in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination.

In a statement, Joseph Muscat said he would not engage in answering “partial, deeply manipulated information being selectively leaked to parts of the media by someone who is directing the accused in a hideous assassination case to obviously try to build a narrative that is both misleading and self-serving.”

“The Prime Minister did his duty in this case despite the fact that he was threatened, as he himself reported, with a smear campaign,” Muscat said with a reference to message he says was communicated to him by a third party on an attempt by Fenech to level accusations against him if he is not granted a presidential pardon.

“The Prime Minister holds the right to take appropriate action at the right time, as well as answer with facts that will show the manipulation and the pure inventions being circulated right now and others being obviously concocted. No amount of personal vendetta timed with vehement spite by someone, will deviate from these facts,” Muscat said.

MaltaToday has yet to establish whether Muscat has retained the gift for personal use, or deposited this gift with the State. “The Prime Minister has always followed all the codes and rules related to gifts he received,” the OPM said.

Questions sent to the OPM by MaltaToday were:

1. Has the Prime Minister declared receiving a gift from Yorgen Fenech to the head of the civil service?

2. Does he agree that a gift from Yorgen Fenech in December 2014 constitutes a breach of the Code of Ethics for MPs which forbids MPs from accepting gifts from persons with an interest in legislation before the House, as well as a breach of the Code of Ethics for ministers which precludes them from accepting gifts that reasonably create an impression they are under an inappropriate obligation?

3. Does he intend returning the gift or donating it to the State?

Repubblika have filed a police report against Muscat, accusing him of taking a bribe, corruption and benefitting someone in the award of a public tender. The NGO said Muscat had not denied a story first published in Lovin Malta two days ago that he had accepted a limited edition Bvlgari watch worth €20,000 in December 2014 from Tumas Group shareholder Yorgen Fenech.

The police report signed by lawyer Jason Azzopardi noted that Fenech had been a shareholder and director in the Electrogas consortium that was awarded the multi-million-euro gas power station tender in December 2013.

The NGO also noted that in December 2014, Electrogas benefitted from a government guarantee to be able to access bank finance.

“Within this context, at a time when Electrogas director, Yorgen Fenech was seeking a bank guarantee from government, the luxury present that he gave to the head of government was a clear indication of a criminal act,” the NGO said.

It also recalled that Muscat never declared this luxury gift in the declaration of assets filed in parliament.