Updated at 10pm on Saturday
Robert Abela on Friday cast doubts on the integrity of a magisterial inquiry investigating potential money laundering and corruption by his predecessor Joseph Muscat.
Speaking outside Labour HQ before an event, the prime minister brushed off concerns about Muscat's potential MEP candidature. Muscat was present at the same event.
"Joseph Muscat was never out of the Labour Party. I believe he has more to give to Labour. God forbid I base my decisions on this inquiry," Abela said.
The prime minister ranted against the "exaggerated" delays in the inquiry's conclusion.
"How much longer are we going to have to wait for this inquiry? The inquiry has been pending for four and a half years. An inquiry that according to the law should have been ready in 60 days, has been pending for four years," Abela said.
The inquiry has zoomed in on suspicious payments Muscat received by a Swiss intermediary linked to former hospital concessionaries VGH and Steward Healthcare.
A civil court last year concluded that the concession should be annulled due to collusion and fraud.
Abela on Friday also cast suspicions about the potential timing of these conclusions, questioning whether it was designed to cause the Labour Party maximum damage prior to the European Parliament elections.
The prime minister echoed Muscat's protestations about Facebook posts by the inquiring magistrate's family members.
Muscat is seeking the removal of magistrate Gabriella Vella from the inquiry over these Facebook posts.
The former prime minister has claimed that Vella's family members "promote propaganda" by those who filed the inquiry, a reference to rule-of-law NGO Repubblika.
Abela also took up another of Muscat's battles, questioning how ex-PN MP Jason Azzopardi knew about plans to search the ex-prime minister's home as part of the inquiry.
'I haven't even spoken to my wife'
Arriving at Labour HQ prior to Abela, Muscat distanced himself from the push for him to be an EP candidate.
"I haven't even spoken to my wife about it," Muscat quipped.
Muscat said he has yet to take a decision, and had no part in the push for him to be a candidate.
The ex-prime minister refused to say if he had discussed the matter with Abela.
Muscat brushed off insinuations that he was seeking a seat in the European Parliament in order to benefit from immunity from prosecution.
"I do not need immunity from anything," Muscat said.
Muscat said any proper investigation would prove he had done nothing wrong.
Muscat has 'lost control' - Grech
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s words on Friday evening, Opposition leader Bernard Grech said Abela “had his back against the wall” and had lost control by “attacking the country’s courts.”
In a post on Facebook, Grech condemned Abela casting doubts on the integrity of the ministerial inquiry, which he said the Prime Minister had done to “save his own skin”.
“I strongly condemn the attack on our courts which should have all the serenity to continue doing their duty according to the constitution of Malta,” Grech said.
“When Labor are in government, the crisis in the Labor Party becomes a crisis in the Country.”