Reports of widespread corruption did not depict a true picture of the situation in Malta, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said in an interview on US news programme 60 Minutes.
CBS said it was the government that suggested Prof. Scicluna should be interviewed, saying they were repeatedly told that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat “did not have time” to speak to them.
When the interviewer mentioned comments on integrity and corruption in Malta made by European bodies, the minister replied they were merely “allegations”.
“I’m not trying to downplay allegations. Allegations are serious. But they are still allegations. You know, it’s up to the courts and their procedures and their experts to decide,” Prof. Scicluna said.
He insisted that anyone wanting to know more about Malta would realise that the way such concerns were being depicted was not accurate.
“It looks bad, but it’s not,” the minister said.
I must say that, at the moment, indeed, the political atmosphere is... is... is rotten
During the same episode of the long-running programme, Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield was asked about kickback allegations involving the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and European institutions raising questions on corruption. He said he did not have “any concerns”.
“I think there’s a smear campaign, trying to hit the government. It is a politically-charged smear campaign,” Mr Bedingfield, a former adviser to Dr Muscat, told 60 Minutes.
When the CBS journalist quoted Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes, a vociferous critic of both Dr Muscat and the Labour government, Mr Bedingfield interjected: “Whoa, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho. Ana Maria Gomes.”
Ms Gomes, who was also interviewed in the programme, participated in a number of European Parliament fact-finding missions to Malta probing the state of the rule of law. Earlier this month, Dr Muscat was heckled by Ms Gomes while giving a speech at the Party of European Socialists congress in Lisbon.
“The system is basically flawed because the Prime Minister ultimately controls the Attorney General, who also controls the police. Nobody’s being tried. And, of course, the sense of impunity is being fuelled by this fact,” the Portuguese MEP said during the 60 Minutes interview.
She agreed with the interviewer that something was “rotten” in Malta: “Such a beautiful island and such a great people, such a proud history. But I must say that, at the moment, indeed, the political atmosphere is... is... is rotten.”
One of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s three sons, Matthew, blogger and activist Manuel Delia and columnist Mark Anthony Falzon were also interviewed.