Joseph Muscat urged those who wanted to reopen an inquiry into secret company Egrant to go ahead but threatened he would sue them for damages once found innocent.

“A good boxer has to be able to take as many punches as he can give. But I will then be punching back," the former prime minister said. 

Interviewed by Labour Party ally Manuel Cuschieri on Smash TV, Muscat cited as defence a magisterial inquiry that did not find evidence of his ownership of the secret Panama offshore company.

"I don’t underestimate that there are forged documents in the evidence submitted, just as signatures in the Egrant affair were found to have been forged."

The former popular Labour leader and PM took the opportunity to answer his critics amid mounting pressure in the wake of the public hospitals' debacle and the consultant payments he received after he stepped down as prime minister in 2020. 

Muscat said some people had wanted the hospitals' project to fail because they were comfortable with the status quo and did not want structural changes to take place in the health sector.

He also reiterated that the earnings he made after he left politics were legitimate and he had ample proof that everything he earned was above board.

I worked and I was paid for my work. Nothing more, nothing less- Muscat

Times of Malta has revealed that according to his 2020 tax return, Muscat declared close to €482,000 in earnings from various consultancy work in the year he resigned as prime minister. 

The former prime minister is the subject of a corruption probe in which investigators suspect that one consultancy contract with Swiss company SpringX Media, which netted him €60,000, could have been used as a vehicle to disguise payments from the "fraudulent" hospitals deal. 

Muscat vehemently denies this, insisting the money paid to him by the company was for legitimate work.

Speaking on Friday, he did not elaborate on who might have wanted the hospitals project to fail.

Muscat admitted things could have been done better in the deal. But if the agreement reached with Vitals/Stewart had benefitted the company so much, as was being claimed, they would not have wanted to change it, he maintained.

A recent landmark court judgment on the deal nullified all the agreements signed by the government, Vitals Global Healthcare and Steward Healthcare, and ordered the hospitals to be returned to the state.

It also condemned Vitals and Steward for "fraudulent" behaviour and slammed government officials for incompetence.

'Auditor did not go to the police'

But during the interview, Muscat made no reference to this judgment, only referring to the National Audit Office reports on the deal.

He pointed out that although he did not agree with some of the analysis made by the NAO, the auditor general had not gone to the police seeking an investigation as he was duty bound to do had he concluded that something had been done against the law.

Asked by Cuschieri about his earnings from consultations after he resigned from politics, Muscat insisted that it was all above board, all the money he earned had been declared and it was for work he had carried out.

Some of it involved projects unrelated to Malta, he said. In one project he had been commissioned for consultation, there was even the presence of the president of a country, he added, without divulging further details.

“I worked and I was paid for my work. Nothing more, nothing less. And I have ample proof of this. But they make the accusations and the person who is accused has to prove they did nothing wrong.”

He noted that he was the first prime minister to have left politics and returned to private work only because all prime ministers in Malta since independence had left politics after retirement age.

“Did they expect me to remain clinging to power? I gave the country my best when I was prime minister but now I have to continue with my life. This is what prime ministers do abroad."

He had not approached companies for work, it was they who sought his advice because of his experience or to make use of his contacts abroad, he said.

Muscat said the media got to know about his earnings because he declared them to parliament as he was bound to do by law for two years after leaving office.

He said a dirty game was being played and he had sought the recusal of the magistrate conducting the hospitals inquiry because of the continuous leaks.

Magistrate Gabriella Vella has declined the request.

Muscat said the magistrate had also opted not to listen to what he had to say for over a year and he had only been called to give his version of events after he sought her recusal. He said he would be taking the next steps as necessary.

"It is a dirty game being played,” he said of the prospect that he could end up being taken to court. 

“They want to see Muscat taken to court... I know that even if this happens, I know I have the people’s support, and even if I’m left alone to fight it, they would have wasted two years of my life for nothing to happen."

Speaking from personal experience, he said it was no wonder some people lost confidence in the justice system.

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