Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi will again not meet top European officials in Malta probing the rule of law, telling the Times of Malta he was “unavailable” for a meeting with the Council of Europe rapporteur next week.

Dr Mizzi last faced MEPs in February 2017, when, during a discussion about his once-secret Panama company, he claimed he was a victim of “fake news”.

Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt, a Dutch MP, arrives on Sunday as part of his work investigating Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and the state of the rule of law on the island.

Asked whether Dr Mizzi would meet the rapporteur, a spokesman replied the minister was “unavailable for the meeting”. Dr Mizzi had given the same reply to the MEPs who were in Malta last month, again to analyse the rule of law.

No replies were forthcoming on why Dr Mizzi would not be attending the meeting with the Dutch MP.

Apart from Dr Mizzi, Mr Omtzigt has also requested meetings with Attorney General Peter Grech, Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and the head of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, Kenneth Farrugia, who have agreed to see him.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff, Keith Schembri, have also been invited to a meeting with the Dutch MP, as have other government ministers and journalists too.

Questions sent to the Office of the Prime Minister on whether Dr Muscat and Mr Schembri would be attending were not answered at the time of writing.

The government had last month asked for Mr Omtzigt to no longer serve as rapporteur. Former Labour home affairs minister Manuel Mallia demanded that the Council of Europe should withdraw his mandate. The request was turned down.

A spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister had said at the time that the Prime Minister had backed Dr Mallia’s call because the government was disappointed that Mr Omtzigt was not replaced by someone “who can be trusted to be independent, impartial and conduct the review with integrity”. According to the spokesman, comments by the rapporteur clearly indicated he was not acting in such a way.

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