Prime Minister Robert Abela on Wednesday refused to say why the disciplinary code for public officials did not apply to his deputy Chris Fearne, who is due to face criminal charges in court.

"We're 30 days from an important election for the European Parliament and local councils and I want to talk about the PL's proposals," he told Times of Malta outside Parliament. 

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Abela was asked why Fearne was not being treated like any civil service employee facing criminal charges who would be automatically suspended on half pay until they cleared their name. 

But Abela refused to entertain the direct question, saying he would rather focus on the EP and local council election which was just a month away.

"I replied to every possible question on the inquiry. We had two full days of questions with detailed replies. The case is now in court and we need to talk about how we're going to improve our country," he said. 

Abela said that during the next 30 days, he wanted to explain to people how the Labour Party was proposing to improve various localities.

He was speaking to Times of Malta moments after he told parliament that Fearne would remain as deputy prime minister unless the inquiry clearly linked him to a crime.

Fearne, who serves as deputy prime minister and EU Funds minister, is set to be charged with fraud and misappropriation in connection with the €400m deal to privatise three state hospitals.

As health minister, he oversaw the deal between 2019 and last year, taking over that role from Konrad Mizzi.

He is among dozens of people to be prosecuted, though he said earlier on Wednesday he has not yet been formally notified of the charges against him.

The prosecutions come as a result of a years-long magisterial probe into the deal.

The Nationalist Party said everyone cited in the inquiry and who holds a public post should resign, singling out Fearne and Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna, who will also be charged.

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