Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today hit out at MEPs for bringing up a number of “unsubstantiated facts” about his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal.
In his closing address following a scathing European Parliament debate about the rule of law in Malta, Dr Muscat expressed his shock that “fake news” was repeated by a number of MEPs.
Responding to criticism about his failure to appear before the Pana committee, Dr Muscat suggested committee chair Werner Langen “fire” whoever carried out his press reviews.
Dr Muscat reiterated his previous commitment to appear before the committee once the inquiry into allegations his wife owns the Panama company Egrant had been completed.
Mr Langen vowed to continue pursuing Dr Muscat to ensure he did not get off “scot-free”.
The Pana committee chair said it was unacceptable that the Maltese government had treated the European Parliament with such disdain.
Addressing a sniggering prime minister, Mr Langen said Dr Muscat could laugh if he liked, but promised to ask if he had bought votes in Malta.
“I will keep on following you”, Mr Langen said.
The prime minister came under fire from MEPs from practically every political grouping about his lack of actions over the Panama Papers scandal, as well as the Maltese authorities’ failure to investigate.
‘Elections do not replace investigations’
A number of MEPs insisted that Dr Muscat’s election victory did not replace the need for proper investigations.
Greens MEP Sven Giegold insisted the police commissioner should immediately open investigations into the allegations based on the findings of the FIAU.
He also insisted there should be consequences for the financial intermediaries like Nexia BT, who opened up the Panama companies for Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.
Dr Muscat was quick to point out that four independent magisterial inquiries were taking place into the Panama Papers inquiries.
The prime minister reiterated his pledge to resign if any evidence linking him to Egrant was found.
Muscat on ‘outright lies’
He said his challenge to other politicians to resign if the “outright lie” about Egrant was found to be untrue had not been met.
Dr Muscat said he was amazed certain basic facts had been overlooked in what was supposed to be a serious debate.
He also called it an outright lie that Maltese politicians were the only European politicians who had been mentioned in the Panama Papers.
Dr Muscat pointed out that the Spanish European Commissioner, who hailed from the EPP political grouping, had also been linked to the Panama Papers.
Addressing issues raised about the rule of law in Malta, Dr Muscat pointed towards the National Audit Office and the Ombudsman as being two institutes which had been critical of governments past and present.
Dr Muscat said his government had re-appointed the Attorney General used by the previous government and the same Attorney General was now being attacked by the Opposition.
Numerous MEPs used the debate to criticise Malta’s tax rebate system.
The prime minister dismissed calls for the introduction of a common European tax base.
Dr Muscat said he could understand that there was a certain jealousy about Malta’s economic success. He dismissed assertions by certain MEPs that Malta’s economy was driven purely by the financial services sector.
Malta hosts ‘cocaine and arms dealers’
Socialist MEP Ana Gomes said Malta’s financial services sector was used by corrupt people and criminals to launder money.
She said Malta’s citizenship scheme, which was even advertised in Air Malta’s in-flight magazine, was a brazen way to encourage money laundering.
Fabio de Masi, from the GUE/NGL grouping, described Malta as a haven for mafia money-launderers. The money Malta protected was stained with blood, the MEP said.
Mr de Masi said there was no realistic opposition in Malta, as the PN also had its own skeletons in its closet.
Mario Borghezio, from the ENF political grouping, said Malta played host to companies used by the mafia, major cocaine dealers, arms dealers, as well as people linked to Hezbollah.
Several MEPs argued that the European Parliament should not even be debating the internal politics of a country.
Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi said the debate had been used for partisan purposes, by people who did their utmost to tarnish Malta’s reputation.
Numerous MEPs highlighted the government’s lack of cooperation with the Pana committee, singling out the prime minister’s chief of staff’s failure to appear before it on numerous occasions.
PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa both said they would not shy away from speaking out against corruption. Both offered to help the government defend Malta against unjust attacks on its financial services sector.
During the conclusion of the debate, EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the Commission would be responding to a request by the European Greens to investigate anti-money laundering law violations by Malta.
Dr Muscat said he would welcome such an investigation, as it would show that Malta was compliant with EU laws.
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