Simon Busuttil’s tweet on Vitals hospital involvement ‘malicious’, minister says

Finance minister files affidavit accused Simon Busuttil of “malicious” intent in alleging he was part of money laundering investigation

Simon Busuttil
Simon Busuttil

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna filed a libel suit against former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil for a post he uploaded on Twitter implying that the minister was “embroiled in a money laundering investigation.”

The choice of words, Scicluna stressed in the courtroom, were indicative of Busuttil’s “malicious” intent, giving the impression of a deep involvement in the privatisation of three state hospitals to the defunct Vitals Global Healthcare group, when Busuttil “knows very well that I’m not being investigated over any accusation of illegality.”

The tweet, dating back to 19 July 2019, reads: “As a #eurozone country we CANNOT AFFORD to have a Finance Minister embroiled in a money laundering investigation. For the sake of our country, Edward Scicluna MUST GO NOW, at least until he clears his name.”

In a sworn affidavit, Scicluna wrote that the tweet was written with ill intention and was aimed to discredit him and harm his reputation, that the post was not “fair and accurate”.

Scicluna stated that the use of the eurozone hashtag was intentional to tarnish his reputation with his “fellow eurozone ministers” through a defamatory comment in a phase when Scicluna was in the running to be nominated EU Commissioner. 

Busuttil, however, stood by his tweet and told the court that there was nothing defamatory about his post.

His tweet makes reference to the hospitals concession deal, which NGO Repubblika had requested a judicial probe into to establish whether three ministers had criminal intent when brokering the deal: Scicluna himself, former ministers Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona. 

Busuttil himself has recently been appointed to a high-profile role within the EU as secretary general of the European People’s Party. 

“From the moment that decree was delivered, we could not afford to have a finance minister involved in such a matter. I’m not talking about the judicial arena but the political arena. The two are different,” Busuttil said, adding that having a finance minister implicated in a magisterial inquiry was enough at a political level to warrant his resignation. 

“Nowhere am I saying that he is guilty,” he said, when the court asked to explain why he chose the term “embroiled.”

Busuttil stressed that Scicluna had embarrassed Malta and was continuing to do so. 

But the minister was adamant that the former PN leader had malicious intentions especially in the choice of words in his tweet, suggesting that the use of the word ‘investigation’ rather than ‘inquiry’ was further proof that Busuttil hadn’t reacted in good faith. 

He added that Busuttil knew very well that the hospitals deal was of a public concessions nature and such a tender was not administered by his ministry but through Projects Malta Ltd, a separate entity from his portfolio. 

Lawyer Ivan Sammut appeared for Scicluna. Lawyer Peter Fenech assisted Busuttil.