Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon took to social media on Wednesday to deny having anything to do with a benefit fraud racket, but said nothing about a member of his inner circle having been linked to the fraud by one of its alleged ringleaders. 

Falzon posted on Facebook one day after he ignored Times of Malta questions about the allegations made by Roger Agius, who is facing charges of having perpetuated the massive fraud over several years. 

The scandal saw hundreds of people being given falsified documents which they then used to apply for monthly severe disability benefit payments, costing taxpayers upwards of €5 million.

Agius, who is pleading not guilty to charges, claimed on Tuesday that an official at Falzon's ministry had facilitated the fraud and reassured him that as long as the minister [Michael Falzon] remained in the post, they would never be in any trouble.

Agius' lawyer told court last week that Mark Calleja, who Falzon employed as a person of trust in his ministry, had ordered reconsideration of failed benefit applications by fraudsters. 

Times of Malta on Tuesday asked the minister if he still had faith in Calleja. But Falzon refused to comment, saying caustically: "Write whatever you want, as you usually do."

Times of Malta also wanted to ask Falzon whether he stood by comments he made in September, when he had insisted the scandal had originated from outside the ministry.

Michael Falzon ignoring questions on Tuesday. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

His refusal to answer journalists' questions drew criticism from rule of law group Repubblika.

Ministers have a duty to reply to questions about alleged crime by their staff,  even if to deny them, the NGO said.

On Wednesday morning, Falzon again insisted in a Facebook post that he was "absolutely" not involved in the scandal and said that police had been alerted to it after suspicions were flagged by the Office of the Prime Minister and his ministry.

Falzon made no reference to other claims made about the involvement of his staff in the racket.   

In its statement, Repubblika said it was clear from the outset that the benefit fraud scandal involved high-level political blessing. Those involved needed to face the consequences and ministers who let the scandal unfold under their noses needed to assume their responsibilities.    

"Michael Falzon should stop shirking the consequences of his actions or carelessness," the NGO said.  

The  Nationalist Party also slammed the minister's decision to avoid the media. 

"The minister must answer questions about what he knew and how people high up within the Labour Party were allowed to criminally operate to secure votes for the party," the PN said in a statement. 

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