Simon Busuttil did not libel Edward Scicluna when he wrote that the then-finance minister was “embroiled in a Money laundering investigation”, a court ruled on Monday.

The former minister and current Central Bank governor had sued Busuttil over a tweet he published in July 2019, at a time when Scicluna was being mentioned as a potential candidate for European Commissioner.

“As a eurozone country we CANNOT AFFORD to have a Finance Minister embroiled in a money laundering investigation. For the sake of our country Edward Scicluna MUST GO NOW, at least until he clears his name,” Busuttil had tweeted.

Scicluna was one of three ministers to be probed by a court over a privatisation deal for three state hospitals, alongside Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona.

He subsequently sued Busuttil for libel, arguing that the tweet “caused great harm” and that the finance ministry he led was not involved in the hospitals deal. Cabinet assumed collective responsibility for such service concessions.

But the former minister also conceded that he had been roped into the magisterial inquiry which Busuttil made reference to in his tweet.

In a judgement on Monday morning, magistrate Rachel Montebello dismissed the libel suit.

Busuttil published that tweet while EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was in Malta, speaking to prospective candidates to serve alongside him in Brussels. Five days after that tweet, the government announced that it was nominating Helena Dalli to the Commission post.

Mizzi was subsequently ousted from the Labour Party following separate, unrelated corruption allegations while Cardona was quietly dropped from cabinet in January 2020 and subsequently quit politics. Scicluna was made Central Bank governor at the end of 2020.

Busuttil was represented in the case by lawyer Peter Fenech. 

Further confirmation that Scicluna's position is untenable - Repubblika

In a reaction to the court judgement, NGO Repubblika said this was further confirmation that Edward Scicluna's position was harmful to the country and untenable. 

Simon Busuttil had been spot on when he said that Scicluna should not have stayed on as finance minister while he was the subject of a magisterial inquiry on money laundering allegations.    

Since then, Scicluna had been made Governor of the Central Bank, but this too was a crucial position for Malta's reputation as a financial jurisdiction, the NGO said.   

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