[WATCH] PM on Christian Borg property deal: ‘I don't know what will happen three years from now’

XTRA on TVM News Plus | Robert Abela continues to dismiss news stories on his property deal with alleged criminal Christian Borg 

Christian Borg, pictured right, celebrated Robert Abela's election as Labour Party leader, dubbing him a good friend and one of his best legal advisers
Christian Borg, pictured right, celebrated Robert Abela's election as Labour Party leader, dubbing him a good friend and one of his best legal advisers

Prime Minister Robert Abela has played down concerns on a property deal struck with an alleged criminal in 2018. 

During an interview on TVM News Plus’s XTRA, Robert Abela said he represented Christian Borg in a civil court case and explained that he had a stake in a promise of sale agreement which was eventually transferred to Borg. 

Christian Borg is one of six accused with abducting a man in Rabat on 21 January, threatening to torture him and rape his sister. He is currently on bail, although the prosecution accused him of being the "mastermind" of the abduction.

“I entered into this deal in 2018, and the crimes came out three years later. I don’t have prophetic powers to tell what will happen three years from now,” he stated. 

“Yesterday a new spin was put on it. According to the PN’s experts, anyone who does an assignment of rights on a promise of sale us automatically evading tax or laundering money,” he rebuked. 

“Around 7,000 people appeared on an assignment of rights last year – is the Opposition saying that all these people are money launderers or tax evaders? 

In the past, Abela served as legal adviser to Borg. An image uploaded on social media shows Borg in Castille square, next to a car with Abela’s face stitched to the bonnet, following Abela’s election as prime minister in January 2020. “One of my best legal advisers, good friend and now Prime Minister. Proud day,” said Borg. 

He directly lambasted Opposition leader Bernard Grech over an unpaid tax scandal revealed during his election campaign to become PN leader. 

Bernard Grech was twice called up by the Inland Revenue Department to settle years of unpaid income tax and even VAT. He eventually settled his affairs in August 2020, right before he contested the party’s leadership contest. 

“If there’s someone who should answer for his behaviour it’s Bernard Grech. How can you declare less than the minimum wage, receive €6,000 a year, yet miraculously own a villa with a swimming pool?” 

Abela then dismissed worries that his history of clientele could prejudice the public’s trust in his leadership, especially after the news broke that Abela was a legal adviser to Christian Borg. 

“One of the heavier criticisms against from the Opposition was that I worked as a lawyer for people who are now in prison on charges of helping kill Daphne Caruana Galizia. If this itself isn’t proof that I am not trying to hide the actions of my clients, then I don’t know what is.” 

‘Steward must pay its tax dues’ 

On the Steward Healthcare concession, Abela insisted that the company must honour all its contractual obligations, including their tax dues. 

“Over the last months we had intensive negotiations with Steward Healthcare and I always remained firm – I won’t prejudice government’s interests,” he said. 

“We chased Steward over their tax dues, and they are now defending themselves in court. We will continue to insist that it must honour its obligations,” he stated. 

Abela added that government will look into any potential legal remedies if they fail to do so. 

“There is also a pending case in its final stages that will determine the validity of the contract. We will act according to the verdict.” 

‘The national interest will determine election date’ 

Abela reiterated his line on the election date, stating that the national interest is the only factor that will determine the date.  

Rumours on the election date have been rampant for the past year. Many were first speculating that Malta would head to the polls in November 2021, but the speculative date eventually changed to March this year. 

When asked why he didn’t call the election last November, Abela explained that he didn’t want a winter spike in COVID-19 cases to be made worse by an election campaign. 

“We knew there was a huge possibility of an increase in COVID-19 cases – would it have been responsible to announce an election during this time?” he responded.  

Abela added that he preferred to focus on implementing the Budget measures proposed in parliament in October last year.