Muscat under pressure as senior ministers, MPs urge him to take action on Mizzi and Schembri
● MEP David Casa writes to German government calling for investigation into Siemens’ involvement
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is facing extreme pressure from leading exponents of his parliamentary group to finally take action against Minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of staff Keith Schembri in the wake of the latest 17 Black graft allegations.
In the meantime, Nationalist Party MEP David Casa yesterday wrote to German Secretary of State Stephan Mayer to “immediately launch an investigation in terms of the German Criminal Code” given the German company’s involvement in the ElectroGas consortium. Casa said that “the clear evidence of corruption and money laundering as well as the fact that a connection to the assassination of a journalist cannot be excluded”.
Well-informed government sources speaking to this newspaper on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that since the outbreak of the latest details on Friday of graft linked to the commissioning of the Delimara power station, senior ministers, Labour Members of Parliament and close friends have been advising Muscat to cut Schembri and Mizzi loose before the collateral damage becomes too much to bear.
They are suggesting that the Prime Minister takes urgent action on Mizzi and Schembri – to have them suspend themselves, or possibly even step down, from their duties until ongoing inquiries and investigations are concluded.
In fact, sources have informed this newspaper that the reason the Office of the Prime Minister did not react on Friday was because the Prime Minister was inundated with phone calls from his people urging him to take action against the pair once and for all.
Those same sources speaking to this newspaper appear to have had no solace from the Prime Minister, and have also warned this newspaper that the government will, in all likelihood, issue a statement today rebutting the information.
Senior Labour politicians are perplexed by Muscat stubborn defence of Mizzi and Schembri, and cannot fathom how he has not taken immediate remedial action against them after Friday’s revelations in a joint article by The Times of Malta and Reuters. The article exposed ElectroGas director Yorgen Fenech as the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of the secret company 17 Black, the “target clients” of Mizzi’s and Schembri’s financial machinations.
Questioned on Friday evening, Muscat said when confronted by journalists that he will wait until the inquiries related to allegations made about 17 Black are concluded before taking any steps.
“I have said from the beginning that I will wait for the investigations and inquiries, some of which were asked for by independent judiciaries and others by the Opposition, to be concluded. I will then take the decisions I need to take.
“I also note that that I cannot ascertain myself what the journalists saw, and they are quoting investigations that are being conducted by Maltese authorities. Up until yesterday, I was still hearing the criticism that the Maltese authorities were not really investigating.”
Casa calls on German authorities to investigate Siemens’ role in ElectroGas graft
David Casa yesterday wrote to the German Secretary of State Stephan Mayer calling for an immediate investigation into Siemens’ possible involvement in the graft, invoking Sections 299-302 of the German Criminal Code dealing with bribery in commercial business transactions and other relevant provisions of German law.
Casa pointed out that “Siemens is a shareholder in Electrogas – the company behind Malta’s power station project. Electrogas director Yorgen Fenech has been exposed as the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of the secret company 17 Black by the Daphne Project – a group of worldrenowned journalists that are continuing the work of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. According to correspondence between Mossack Fonseca and Nexia BT, 17 Black was to transfer €150,000 monthly each to Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, two high level politically exposed persons that are the minds behind Malta’s power station project.
“Funds from entities associated with the power station project were transferred to 17 Black. Funds found in 17 Black’s bank account at Noor Bank in Dubai were frozen last September.
“At the time of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination the journalist was working on the biggest leak of data she had ever received – access to Electrogas servers.
“The most recent revelations of the Daphne Project have continued to vindicate Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigative work.
“In view of the involvement of Siemens in Electrogas, the clear evidence of corruption and money laundering as well as the fact that a connection to the assassination of a journalist cannot be excluded, I call on you to immediately launch an investigation in terms of the above quoted articles of the German Criminal Code.”
24 hours on and the Prime Minister has not taken any action’ Delia –
Twenty-four hours have passed and Muscat has still not taken any action over the revelations. In a statement, Delia said that by Muscat’s own yardstick – where he said that if it was revealed that he or his wife owned Egrant he would have resigned – Schembri and Mizzi should be removed given that they had acquired companies in Panama.
Delia said that in the PL’s 2013 electoral manifesto, Muscat said he believed in responsible and accountable politicians, politicians who answer for their actions. “If Muscat truly believes in accountability and cares about Malta’s reputation, then he has no other road left to take except to immediately remove Schembri and Mizzi. What is he waiting for? Who is holding him back?”
Delia accused Muscat of playing for time, adding that Muscat himself is delaying court inquiries through appeals.
Delia should resign Labour Party –
By his own yardstick, Delia should himself resign, the Labour Party retorted in a statement.
Delia, the PL said, “was the subject of a number of allegations, and his name was tied to criminal acts in a number of articles published by Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“We will never know the truth about these articles as Delia was always afraid of asking for an investigation.
The PL said that through Delia’s words yesterday, “one must wait for the investigations regarding what was said in the media.”
Joseph Muscat held hostage by Schembri and Mizzi AD –
AD yesterday joined calls for Muscat to sack Mizzi and Schembri with immediate effect: “If he chooses to continue defending these two political delinquents he should also shoulder responsibility and step aside as well.”
AD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said, “It is now more than crystal clear that the Prime Minister is held hostage by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. He is defending the indefensible.
“Joseph Muscat’s reference to ongoing inquiries is a poor and shallow excuse for inaction. Muscat should know that there is a difference between shouldering political responsibilities and criminal investigations. The whole country is also being held hostage by political delinquents Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, with the shadow of corruption putting the whole country in a bad light on the international stage. Meanwhile, Muscat prefers defending just two people to the hilt rather than defending the whole country.
“The ascertaining of criminal responsi- bilities can wait but political responsibilities should be shouldered immediately. Lack of action against these two delinquents will mean that our country’s reputation will remain sullied and stained with the muck of corruption,” Cacopardo added.
Our system is broken; we need to fix it Godfrey Farrugia –
Partit Demokratiku also renewed its call for the immediate suspension of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri from all government activity, pending the outcome of a police criminal investigation into their intended dealings with 17 Black.
Mizzi and Schembri were exposed in the Panama Papers as having established two secret business ventures in Panama. PD pointed out that their advisors, Nexia BT had said, “These companies intended to transact with Fenech’s 17 Black and estimated that Mizzi and Schembri would earn €150,000 per month from this business relationship. All plans were made when Fenech’s Tumas Group was bidding for the Delimara Gas-fired Power Station Project as part of the ElectroGas consortium and Enemalta, which fell under the political responsibility of Mizzi, was negotiating the bid.
PD Leader Godfrey Farrugia said, “Decency calls on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat not to be surrounded with the likes of his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi. Joseph Muscat has persistently failed to act in Malta’s interests. He can no longer ignore this.”
Farrugia added, “Public sector officers and people’s representatives should never engage in any kind of personal commercial relationship with a company with which they are dealing in an official capacity. There is evidence that Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi intended to do just that in the 17 Black affair.”
It appears that the original plans of Mizzi and Schembri were only thwarted because every bank in the world that they approached came to a common conclusion: “Their plans stank.”
“17 Black shows how the system is broken. It is our job to fix it,” Farrugia added.
PD MP Marlene Farrugia said: “The evidence has to be investigated by local police. What have the police done over the past seven months since they received the FIAU report naming Yorgen Fenech as the owner of 17 Black? Who knows about the investigation? Are we sure nobody in government got wind of this before yesterday?”
PD Deputy Leader Timothy Alden said: “17 Black is the latest episode in a saga that paints big business as too close to politics. We need to build a system that is fit for purpose: one that prioritises the interests of citizens and ensures that everyone plays by the rules. We cannot afford to have government officials in business with people who are meant to deliver the best deal for us.”