Education Minister Evarist Bartolo intimated on Tuesday he was still of the opinion that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi should step down in the wake of the Panama scandal.
Asked by the Times of Malta whether he still supported calls for Dr Mizzi to step down, the veteran minister replied: “I speak when I decide to. I have nothing to add to the many times I have expressed myself.”
Fellow ministers Edward Scicluna and Helena Dalli have said they had “no opinion” about 17 Black, while other Cabinet members toed the Prime Minister’s line about awaiting the outcome of investigations.
Mr Bartolo was at the forefront of both public and internal Labour Party calls two years ago for Dr Mizzi to step down in the wake of reports that he had opened secret structures in Panama to receive planned payments of $1 million.
Mr Bartolo, however, remained silent in the wake of media reports by the Times of Malta and Reuters that 17 Black is owned by power station investor Yorgen Fenech. When asked about this, Mr Bartolo said nothing had changed on his part.
“I have not reversed anything,” he said.
A leaked e-mail sent by Dr Mizzi’s financial advisers, Nexia BT, said 17 Black would pay up to $2 million into the once-secret companies owned by the Tourism Minister and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri.
Asked if he was surprised that Dr Mizzi stood to potentially gain from a government contract, Mr Bartolo again insisted he had already answered the question. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has brushed off calls for the two government officials to resign. Instead, he said he would await the outcome of a criminal investigation, which, he noted, involved 17 Black and not Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.
Dr Mizzi said he has “no link” to 17 Black but refused to explain why Nexia BT said in the e-mail that his Panama company would receive funds from it.
Mr Schembri said in a statement after the e-mail was published by the Daphne Project in April that 17 Black and another company called Macbridge formed part of “draft business plans”.
The Prime Minister has refused to state whether he had asked his chief of staff about such draft business plans and the ownership of the two companies.
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