[WATCH] Bernard Grech says funds to pay off pending tax bill came from family savings

PN leadership contender Bernard Grech interviewed on TVM’s Xtra Sajf

Bernard Grech
Bernard Grech

Bernard Grech says he has no skeletons in his closet but admits the way he mishandled his taxes for the past years was a mistake.

Grech, who is contesting the Nationalist Party leadership in a race against Adrian Delia, was recently revealed to have outstanding tax dues running into the tens of thousands of euros that were settled as late as last week through the payment of one lump sum.

The PN leadership candidate expressed regret for failing to meet these dues, but hinted that there may be other extraneous circumstances which he cannot currently divulge.  

“There are realities concerning the tax situation that I will hopefully be able to explain in the future,” he said, while being interviewed on TVM’s Xtra Sajf.

Grech explained that the €29,000 that he paid off were under contestation, but that he had decided to settle them so that he would not have any pending issues ahead of the leadership election. 

“The amount was under contestation but I didn’t want to go in front of the party members with a pending bill so I chose to pay so that there would be nothing pending,” he said. 

The leadership hopeful categorically denied the notion that he had used any of the funds raised by his crowdfunding campaign to help pay off these dues, insisting that all the funds were taken from his own family’s savings.  

Grech was also asked by presenter Saviour Balzan to clarify his stance on abortion following his backtracking on this issue, with the family lawyer arguing that all the declarations he has been making have been simply the progression of the same thought process, and that he has been misquoted and misunderstood.

“I was clear from the beginning,” he said. “I was and remain against abortion. When I said that I want to discuss it, I did not mean discussing whether abortion should be made legal or not. I want to open a discussion, and I made this clear, so that I can know and understand what the people going through this trauma are going through. If we don’t do this then we can’t help them”. 

The leadership candidate added that his recent declaration that he would resign if an abortion referendum were to pass while he was Prime Minister was also in the same spirit as his earlier statements. 

“When I said that if I were prime minister I would respect the people’s decision, I meant that I would not vote against the will of the people. Then when I said that I would be ready to resign, I was showing again that I would respect that decision. I would not be the prime minister who would introduce abortion, even if the people decide for it, but I would be ready to resign,” Grech elaborated.

Probed by Balzan as to whether he would continue the PN’s court battle against the hospitals concession agreement (now operated by Steward Health Care), and cancel the contract should he become prime minister, Grech said the government and the opposition had an obligation to act if there is evidence of any illegality or corruption.

“We have to look at the contracts, take all precautions so that the damage does not grow, and yes, if it results that there was a bad contract, then it’s important that we annul it and take action on it if the courts or the investigation shows us that that is a contract that was incorrect, illegal, and full of corruption”, he said. 

However, Grech was less definitive when asked about the issue of illegal immigration. He argued that “we need to safeguard the health and security of every person that lives in this country”, and pointed out that some people have become too scared to go to certain “no-go areas”, while at the same time insisting that “you cannot leave people at sea”, and that every human life has its dignity. 

“There are many other solutions – some immediate and other more long-term,” he declared, without specifying what these might be.

The leadership candidate extolled the importance of unity within the PN, insisting that there can be no renewal before everyone is united with a common goal.

He stressed that, should he emerge victorious from the leadership race, he has no plan to cull any members from the party or from their positions within its structures.

Asked by Balzan as to whether he believes the PN could win the next general election with him at the helm, Grech said that this depends on when the next election will be called. 

“I am working to win the general election if possible, but everyone understands that if this takes place in December, or January or March, we would not even have started our work,” he said.

Grech expressed his hopes that Prime Minister Robert Abela will call the election on the basis of what is good for the country, as opposed to what is in his own best interest, noting that the Labour Party had already called an early election in the last legislature. 

“I hope that the Labour Party will not be remembered as the party that for two subsequent legislatures was afraid and decided to go for an early election,” he said.

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