‘I always returned expensive gifts or left them to the State’, Muscat insists

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says he always acted correctly whenever he received expensive gifts, by either returning them or depositing them with the State

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was speaking during a brief telephone interview on One Radio on Sunday
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was speaking during a brief telephone interview on One Radio on Sunday

The Prime Minister has insisted that he acted correctly throughout his leadership whenever he was gifted anything expensive, saying that in each occasion he either returned the gifts or deposited them with them State.

Joseph Muscat said that recent reports about expensive gifts he had received were an attempt to smear him for having done his duty in the past weeks.

Muscat, who is currently on a three-day visit to Dubai with his family, was speaking during a brief telephone interview on One Radio on Sunday morning.

He was reacting to claims that he had in 2014 been gifted a €20,000 Bvlgari watch by suspected Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind and 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech, and that the same Fenech had given him, during a Girgenti party in 2019, three bottles of Petrus wine worth around €5,800.

“I will keep respecting my function as a Prime Minister, the office which the Maltese and Gozitan people entrusted on me. I will say what I have to say without playing anybody’s games,” Muscat said, “As I said before, I was threatened that if I did my duty and acted on the Attorney General’s and Police Commissioner’s advice, I would become the target of a smear campaign.”

“I did my duty, and this is the result. But I did my duty and will keep doing it,” he emphasised.

Muscat said he had made the decision to not enter into a lot of detail for the moment regarding the gift allegations. “But a lot of things are being said, and some are inventing things and a few others are believing them - for instance, the current fashion of focusing on gifts.”

“I will only say that I always acted correctly - whenever I was given expensive gifts, I sent them back, and when this couldn’t be done, I left [such gifts] to the State,” he underlined.

The Prime Minister said that his predecessors had not left any gifts they had been given behind when they left office. “What I can say is that our predecessors left empty offices and residences. They did not even leave a pencil.”

He said that, after being elected Prime Minister, he had not found any numbered gifts left to the State which had been given to previous prime ministers when Malta joined the EU.

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

“On the other hand, I acted correctly and time will prove this. I want to set the record straight, but I also won’t play the game of reacting to half-truths,” Muscat added.

People should be optimistic about 2020

Asked by the interviewer whether he was optimistic about what next year would bring for Malta, Muscat said he was “always optimistic.”

He pointed out that, from 1 January, pensioners will be receiving a €7 a week pensions increase. People receiving medical treatment, those over 80, the disabled and others will also receive increases to their entitlements, while there would be no tax rises and workers would be getting an income tax refund, he said.

“So the Maltese people should be optimistic,” Muscat underscored, “And I am sure that with the new prime minister’s leadership, we will keep moving in the right direction.”

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