[WATCH] Busuttil: Abela can only be taken seriously when Schembri and Muscat are in court

Former Nationalist leader and outgoing MP Simon Busuttil on Egrant, his 2017 election, and new prime minister Robert Abela

Simon Busuttil on Xtra
Simon Busuttil on Xtra

The former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil, now embarking on a new career as secretary-general of the European People’s Party, has reiterated his doubts about the ownership of the mysterious Egrant offshore company, on which he waged battled with Joseph Muscat in the 2017 elections he lost.

Speaking on TVM’s Xtra, Busuttil reiterated his claims about the Egrant report. “When the Egrant report came out, I remained wholly unconvinced,” he said of the conclusions by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, suggesting that even Labour minsters doubted Muscat’s claims that he was not the owner of the secret Panamanian company.

Busuttil insisted that Muscat should have carried political responsibility when the Panama Papers scandal broke, implicating both his former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and former minister, Konrad Mizzi.

“In the political realm, one cannot afford to wait for lengthy court decisions… action should have been taken immediately… failure to do so is what led to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination,” Busuttil said.

“Joseph Muscat has blood on his hands because he did not take the immediate action of firing them [Schembri and Mizzi]. If he had done so we would have saved a woman’s life, and our democracy with her.”

Busuttil said the confrontational style of Maltese politics is based on a winner-takes-all mentality. “I have nothing against Joseph Muscat personally, and I have, nor ever had, any enmity against him. I fought with Joseph on a political level because I disagreed with him on fundamental issues, but not on personal ones,” he insisted.

But he said he hoped new Prime Minister Robert Abela can be taken seriously by carrying out justice by taking Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, and Joseph Muscat to court. “In my new role, I will ensure that Europe will continue to look into the actions of Robert Abela to see if this person, who is already claiming that this is a normal country when you have so much corruption running around, is serious or not,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview on his career, Busuttil said his interest in politics stemmed from the impact of Labour government policies in the 1980s that led to the closure of St Aloysius College, one of several church schools affected by the fees dispute with Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici. “That was an episode which had an impact on my life since it not only introduced the idea of politics to me, but also how it connects to the people,” Busuttil said.

His next foray into politics came as the public face of the Malta-EU Information Centre, which formed part of the campaign for Malta’s entry into the European Union.

After becoming an MEP, he returned to Malta to take up the role of deputy leader in 2012, where Busuttil admitted that, while still believing the PN were the better option, “it was clear that it was a party headed for the opposition” during the 2013 election. “It was clear where things were going, but I felt that my duty at the time was to help the Nationalist Party, and when they called, I answered”.

Busuttil said he quickly realised the dire straits the party was in, especially on the financial front. He claimed it was evidence for what he described as the lack of corruption of the PN in government: “the financial problems of the Nationalist Party are proof of how clean it was when in government, since if we had wanted to cheat, we would have done it then.”

Busuttil said up until the 2017 elections he had not enough time “to persuade the people that what I was saying about the Panama Papers was truly that fundamental”, as well as alleging that the Labour Party also “bought voters” to get their victory. “A thousand jobs in Gozo, half the army was given a promotion, and hundreds of jobs were created at WasteServ,” Busuttil said.

He described the assassination of Caruana Galizia, stating that “this was a fatal attack on our democracy”.

“After Daphne was murdered, I became solely focused on the fight against corruption, and on the fight to achieve justice for Daphne,” he said, adding that he felt a great degree of shock and anger when he discovered that the two issues were directly connected. “I never foresaw this, but I was not surprised, merely shocked.”