The disclosures about the secret Dubai company 17 Black were final confirmation of how the electorate had been betrayed by people who used the general elections to attain power and fatten their wallets and were now using the same power to evade justice, former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said in Parliament.
The central promise of the Labour Party ahead of the 2013 general election had been the building of a new power station and a reduction of power tariffs, and yet it had now resulted that the ultimate aim of that promise was actually for some people to make money, to the tune of €5,000 a day, Dr Busuttil said in an adjournment speech on Monday.
With Justice Minister Owen Bonnici having finally confirmed that a magisterial inquiry into 17 Black (owned by a power station owner) was underway, it was now officially known that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, were being investigated by the police and a magistrate, Dr Busuttil said.
So why were they still in office? What had become of Joseph Muscat’s promise of accountability and political responsibility?
Indeed, the police should also be investigating how the €5,000 a day to Mizzi and Schembri's secret companies were being transferred, once they were not being transferred by 17 Black. For did anyone believe no transfers were being made?
In his remarks, Dr Busuttil said the people could now see why the Labour government had wanted to build the power station at all costs. Prior to the 2013 general election, the then Nationalist government and the Labour opposition had received an identical proposal for the building of the power station. The then government rejected it, opting for the interconnector instead.
But Labour, for reasons which were now understood, accepted it.
A call for bids was issued when Labour was elected and the contract was awarded, to the same people who had made the first proposal.
The process had seen Brian Tonna, the person who eventually set up the secret companies, appointed to the selection board. The investors were even granted a €360m bank guarantee, to ensure they had no risks.
Tonna set up four secret companies. One belonged to Konrad Mizzi, one to Keith Schembri, another, Egrant, whose owner had not been revealed, and a fourth belonged to the Chinese official with whom Konrad Mizzi had negotiated the sale of a stake in Enemalta.
In February 2016 Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed the secret companies, but at the time no one knew where their funding would come from. Konrad Mizzi had said his company was for family matters. Now people now knew better.
The prime minister did not ask questions, Perhaps he knew. Rather, he strenuously defended the minister and the chief of staff.
A general election was called. For these people winning the election was not about serving the country but a way to evade arrest and justice.
Now the circle had been closed and facts were undeniable.
“We have now three clear facts – the setting up of the secret companies, the arrangements for the payment of €5,000 a day and the source of those funds, including Yorgen Fenech, the owner of the power station which the government wanted to build at all costs,” Dr Busuttil said.
“This means that they wanted to make money from the very promise of reducing the people’s electricity tariffs.”
These three facts should be enough to condemn those involved, at least politically.
All the projects in which Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri were involved needed to be investigated, not least the transfer of public hospitals and the transfer of the ITS site, Dr Busuttil said.
Prime Minister Muscat was ultimately responsible for having defended Mizzi and Schembri and for not having ensured that the institutions investigate what was being revealed.
Dr Muscat had said he would act once an inquiry (on money laundering claims) was concluded, and yet he was objecting in court to it even starting. This could amount to criminal complicity and obstruction of justice, which was a crime.
“Political, legal and criminal responsibilities must be borne for this horror story of the betrayal of the people's trust. The truth is now known, and the people deserve justice,” Dr Busuttil said.
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