Robert Abela has insisted he will not sack Edward Scicluna, despite the Central Bank Governor facing criminal charges over fraud and misappropriation. 

The prime minister was asked on Tuesday whether he intended to keep Scicluna on as bank governor and board member of the Malta Financial Services Authority.     

“The response is in the affirmative,” Abela said. 

“Edward Scicluna departs from a presumption of innocence, and Edward was among those I was referring to when I said I will defend and support those who worked loyally for a number of years and were there for their country in the most sensitive moments,” prime minister Abela said.

Robert Abela speaks about Edward Scicluna. Video: Jonathan Borg

As Central Bank governor, Scicluna sits on the council of governors of the European Central Bank.

As an MFSA board member, Scicluna plays a key role in overseeing the authority that licenses and assesses financial institutions in Malta. The MFSA is also responsible for identifying fraud and misappropriation within companies - crimes Scicluna stands accused of.

Speaking on Tuesday, Abela said that it would be premature to act on Scicluna at this stage.

“My invitation is to wait and see the contents of the inquiry, and then we will see whether accusations against Scicluna were backed by the inquiry or whether Scicluna is being charged only because he was a minister,” he said.

Scicluna is among two dozen people facing criminal charges over the Vitals hospitals deal. He is set to appear in front of a criminal court for the first time on May 29. 

Those charges were recommended by a still-secret magisterial inquiry into the hospitals deal and implemented by prosecutors at the Attorney General’s office. Abela appointed the current AG, Victoria Buttigieg, in 2020. 

Buttigieg’s office has in the past opted not to file charges against people cited in magisterial inquiries, attracting criticism from civil society and the Opposition in the process.

But on Tuesday, Abela argued that the AG was bound by what the magistrate recommended.

“The magistrate makes its recommendations in the inquiry. You can say that they (the AG’s office) can ignore those recommendations....... but after reforms that we implemented, the supreme court has the power to order the AG to file charges”. 

The AG has not been ordered to file charges by the court.

Besides Scicluna, two other senior government officials have been charged in connection with the Vitals deal.

Ronald Mizzi is the economy ministry’s permanent secretary, while James Camenzuli is CEO of Projects Plus, also under the economy portfolio. 

Richard Bilocca, CEO of Wasteserv, also faces criminal charges in connection with an unrelated case. He will be charged with involuntary manslaughter in June. 

Abela defended all three officials, saying: “The points I made about Edward Scicluna also apply to every one of the persons you have mentioned”.

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