[WATCH] Schembri should prove €100,000 payment was loan, not kickbacks

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami calls on PM's chief of staff Keith Schembri to publish proof of loan made to Brian Tonna in 2012

Edward Zammit Lewis (right) and Beppe Fenech Adami facing questions by Saviour Balzan
Edward Zammit Lewis (right) and Beppe Fenech Adami facing questions by Saviour Balzan

The Nationalist Party has been in preparation for an election to be held in February or March 2018, but it was now debatable if the country could afford to carry on with a prime minister implicated in a magisterial inquiry on allegations that his wife owned a secret offshore company, PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said tonight.

Speaking on Xtra tonight, the Nationalist Party deputy leader said that having the prime minister "being investigated for criminal conspiracy" while the country held the presidency of the EU, was doing great harm to Malta.

“Forget, for a moment, the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party, forget partisan politics,” he said. “Everyone should ask if our country deserves having such a prime minister, irrespective of whatever achievements the government is proud.”

The magisterial inquiry was launched on a police complaint lodged by the Prime Minister himself, to deal with allegations that his wife or himself could be owners of a Panamanian offshore company.

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis insisted that the date of the election was Muscat’s prerogative but he said he was sure that, whenever the election is held, the Labour Party would win again. “I will be proud to face the electorate again, because of this government’s track record,” he said. “I believe we will beat you, if you ask me, and I am not being arrogant here.”

Fenech Adami also insisted that the prime minister’s chief of staff should prove that the €100,000 he received from Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna was a repayment for a 2012 personal loan as he was claiming, and not kickbacks received from the sale of Maltese citizenship through the IIP scheme.

Beppe Fenech Adami:
Beppe Fenech Adami: "You've lost the plot."

He said that Keith Schembri should substantiate his claim, and said he hoped that Schembri would not go to minister Chris Cardona for a quick private writ.

Fenech Adami was referring to claims made on Tuesday by his party’s leader Simon Busuttil, who said that he had proof showing Schembri had received the money as kickbacks from Tonna for the sale of Maltese passports to three Russian individuals.

On Thursday morning, Busuttil presented his evidence under oath to magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is leading an inquiry into earlier allegations claiming that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife – Michelle – was the ultimate beneficial shareholder of the secret Panama company, Egrant.

On Xtra tonight, Fenech Adami warned Zammit Lewis from sticking his neck out for Muscat, Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi, who – like Schembri – had been discovered to have opened a secret company in Panama days after winning the 2013 election.

“I do not think you want to be associated with those three, especially if, as I suspect, they are not telling you and the rest of your parliamentary group the truth,” he told him.

Zammit Lewis said that like all the other ministers and the rest of the parliamentary group, he too stood fully behind Muscat because he believed him.

Edward Zammit Lewis:
Edward Zammit Lewis: "We will win again."

“You’ve lost the plot,” was Fenech Adami’s brusque retort. “You do not understand that this is big, bigger than when members of our judiciary were arrested and bigger than the oil procurement scandal.”

The two agreed that the outcome of the magisterial inquiry would have very serious consequences, irrespective of the result.

“I know that Joseph Muscat will have to face the consequences if the inquiry concludes there is evidence to prove that he or his wife held a shareholding in Egrant,” Zammit Lewis said.

“But if the outcome of the inquiry is the opposite – as I believe it will be – I am equally sure the opposition leader will not accept it and still insist he has the proof.”

Fenech Adami said that he had no doubt that the inquiring magistrate would leave no stone unturned in his investigations.

“But it’s a pity that the investigation was launched way too late and that the police took no immediate action to seal Pilatus Bank when the allegations were first published,” he said.

He insisted the police should react immediately to such serious allegations, even if carried solely on an online blog, and not wait for a third party to file a formal grievance or request for action.

Zammit Lewis insisted that, nine days after the allegations against Michelle Muscat first surfaced, the opposition leader – who immediately endorsed the blogger’s accusations – had failed to present even one shred of evidence to substantiate the claims.

“Today, we have come to understand why Muscat did not fire Mizzi and Schembri but kept them close to him,” Fenech Adami said. “We now have a magistrate investigating the prime minister, his wife, his minister and his chief of staff for possible criminal activity and involvement in corruption and money laundering.”

The time for Muscat was up, he insisted.

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