Outgoing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has denied accepting expensive gifts during his six-year term in office, saying such claims were “fabrications” meant to tarnish his reputation.

Speaking on One Radio while on holiday in Dubai, the Prime Minister insisted that this “smear campaign” against him was the result of his refusal to succumb to “threats”.

“As I had previously stated I had been threatened that if I was to perform my duty and abide with the advice of the Attorney General and the police commissioner I would be targeted by a smear campaign,” Dr Muscat said.

I always acted in the right manner, and when presented with expensive gifts sent them back. When not possible, I donated them to the State.- Joseph Muscat

The prime minister was reacting to the latest controversy involving his office, this time regarding revelations that Yorgen Fenech, who stands charged with complicity in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, had gifted him two luxury watches and three bottles of some of the most expensive wine in the world. Mr Fenech had requested a presidential pardon, but his demand had been refused by the government.  

The Sunday Times of Malta said that the Prime Minister would be publishing a list of gifts which he received during his tenure. This information would be made public once he steps down after January 12. 

In his reaction, Dr Muscat insisted he was paying the price for doing what was right.

“I decided not to delve into details, but a lot of fabrications are being said some of which are being believed in certain quarters, including on gifts,” he added.

“I always acted in the right manner, and when presented with expensive gifts sent them back. When not possible I donated them to the State,” the prime minister said.

He added that his predecessor, the Nationalist-led government of Lawrence Gonzi, had left “empty residences” bereft of any gifts.

“When I was elected Prime Minister I found no numbered gifts donated on the occasion of Malta’s accession to the EU,” he pointed out.

“I acted in the correct manner and time will tell.”

The prime minister said he wanted to set the record straight but at the same time did not want to “play the games of those wanting to say half-truths” and whose intent was just to provoke a reaction from his side.

The Sunday Times of Malta story quoted sources close to Dr Gonzi who said that it was strange that such gifts were in possession of the State. He pointed out that business persons did not give the State gifts. 

One source said that Dr Gonzi’s secretariat had followed strict protocol when receiving State gifts to the prime minister. Each gift was registered and marked with a sticker to indicate the source and occasion. 

PM says 2020 will herald further progress

Looking ahead, Dr Muscat said that 2020 would herald a weekly €7 increase for pensioners and other increases for those on medical care, disabled persons, elderly persons aged 80 and over, income tax refunds and no new taxes.

"I am sure that under the leadership of a new Labour prime minister, regardless of who is elected between Robert Abela and Chris Fearne, Malta would keep heading in the right direction," Dr Muscat said. 

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