Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted on Wednesday morning that he is “stating facts” when he says that his chief of staff Keith Schembri is not being investigated as part of the inquiry looking into the 17 Black allegations.
His statement follows another one on Tuesday when he said he retained confidence in Mr Schembri and the ongoing investigations were not into Mr Schembri but into the once secret 17 Black.
Leaked e-mails show Panama companies set up by Mr Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi had arrangements to receive payments of $2 million from 17 Black, owned by Yorgen Fenech a director of the Electrogas power station, and another company of unknown ownership called Macbridge.
Mr Schembri now figures in three separate magisterial inquiries.
Last year, Dr Muscat had said Mr Schembri would resign if faced with a criminal investigation.
Fielding questions from journalists, Dr Muscat told Times of Malta he was stating the facts “as they are” when saying that the inquiry was only looking at the company and not at his chief of staff.
When it was pointed out that Mr Schembri himself had admitted that the once-secret Dubai company was part of his draft business plans, Dr Muscat insisted he “did not think so” and reiterated that the probe was looking at 17 Black.
Pressed further to say how he was privy to information on who was and was not being investigated, the Prime Minister said:
“You are making an assumption and I am questioning that assumption. You published the story.”
In recent weeks, the Prime Minister has insisted that the reports by Times of Malta and Reuters were just allegations. When asked whether he now believed the reports to be facts, Dr Muscat would not reply.
'These twists are not acceptable' - Repubblika
In their first public statement, members of new civil society group Repubblika said Dr Muscat's reasoning would not cut it.
"17 Black in and of itself does not require a police investigation....there is no scope to investigate 17 Black unless it is for the police to detain and arraign Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, as well as Yorgen Fenech and possibly oher persons, and charge them with corruption and money laundering," members said outside Castille.
The protest group also called for Dr Muscat himself to step down, saying his position was now untenable.
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