Robert Abela says he’s always believed that Konrad Mizzi should appear before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to answer questions about the various shady deals he was, as minister, involved in. Good to know, prime minister, but that’s hardly enough.

Abela has not hesitated to declare that he doesn’t believe Keith Schembri ever lost his infamous phone. When the Montenegro wind farm scam was revealed – a Mizzi project that saw Malta fleeced out of millions for the benefit of Yorgen Fenech’s secret company, 17 Black – Abela was quick to say that it was “disgusting” (if true) and that he wanted a formal investigation.

So what does Abela have to say about the latest revelations? The Sunday Times of Malta has published extracts of leaked text messages bet­ween Mizzi and Fenech, in 2019, concerning the Institute of Tourism Studies.

The businessman appears to be trying to fix a deal and angling for a €5 million cut.

Mizzi has not denied the messages. He simply claims that any suspicion is baseless. But he disdains to explain himself, just as he evaded answering the questions of the Caruana Galizia public inquiry and has so far evaded appearing before the PAC.

Someone should ask Abela what he thinks of this story. Is he disgusted? Should it be investigated?

It wouldn’t interfere in police work. He’d be giving his view of the national interest. He’d be sending the right signals to Moneyval, which had us greylisted because of a perceived lack of political will to investigate suspected money laundering.

It can’t just stop there. Something needs to be cleared up. Is Mizzi still a member of the Labour Party?

Mizzi’s behaviour has been extraordinary from the day he came into the limelight during the 2013 electoral campaign. He was presented to us then as Labour’s golden boy but almost everything he touched has turned to mould. In Malta’s tapeworm economy, full of parasites feeding on our lunch, the longest tapeworms are associated with deals in which Mizzi, as minister, was involved in.

Five years ago, when the Panama Papers broke, it was his profile, as the only serving EU minister with a Panama company to his name, that was plastered in the world press.

Before the Montenegro deal, there was the one with Electrogas, whose dubiousness at every turn has been exposed by multiple sources. The Caruana Galizia inquiry has detailed the shady machinations behind it and Mizzi passed up the opportunity to explain himself before the panel.

The deal leading to the privatisation of three hospitals – initially to Vitals Global Healthcare – has been described as vitiated and possibly illegal by the National Audit Office. The current concessionaire, Steward Health Care, has itself filed documents in court claiming the deal may have been corrupt.

So if Mizzi is a Labour member, is the party the kind of club that accepts someone like him?- Ranier Fsadni

Mizzi keeps pleading that everything he’s done has been out of love for country but it’s a love he wanted to be richly paid for, according to the leaked text messages, e-mails and documents. He denies eve­ry­thing but then refuses to answer questions that ask him to explain how the circumstantial evidence can be interpreted in a different, plausible way.

He’s a problem for everyone, not just for Parliament and our international reputation but also for Labour, a problem reflected in his career within Labour.

The party statute was changed to enable him to become deputy Labour leader (when his Panama company was already news but pooh-poohed away as much ado about nothing). He served only for two months. He was made to resign and, under Abela, even the rule-change was reversed.

In November 2019, he was made to resign from Cabinet by his colleagues, after refusing to do the decent thing. Then, in January last year, he was expelled from the Labour parliamentary group after once more he refused to resign himself.

However, there was no news of expulsion from the Labour Party itself. So is he or isn’t he still a member?

In one sense, this is a strictly party matter. What Labour does with its members is up to it alone. However, what it does, the rest of us can judge.

It’s no longer enough for Labour to say it can’t control Mizzi’s behaviour since he’s now an independent MP. True, but Labour is responsible for its own standards. If Mizzi is still a member, then Labour is saying that it accepts behaviour like his from one of its own.

Abela, as Labour leader, can’t have it both ways. When he declares that Mizzi should appear before the PAC, he’s giving the lie to Mizzi’s claim that the PAC request is an opposition mudslinging charade. The prime minister is acknowledging that Mizzi faces questions he is duty-bound to answer.

So if Mizzi is a Labour member, is the party the kind of club that accepts someone like him?

If he has been indeed expelled, that would be good news. It should be broadcast more loudly because it sends good signals abroad.

But it also leaves one final question. It’s about Labour’s behaviour. How will it conduct itself during Mizzi’s PAC hearing? Will its representatives act though they’re there to protect Mizzi from probing questions and censure? Or will they probe and ask hard questions themselves?

We should ask Abela himself. The Labour PAC representatives will take the lead from him. If they soft-pedal Mizzi, we will know that they still treat Mizzi as one of their own: someone to be not expelled but, given his secrets, only secreted.

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