The Malta Independent 27 October 2016, Thursday

National protest against corruption organised by PN this Sunday in response to Panama scandal

Helena Grech Monday, 29 February 2016, 19:23 Last update: about 9 months ago

The Nationalist Party will be organising a mass protest against government corruption this Sunday in Valletta, Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil announced this evening during a press conference outside parliament.

This will be the first national protest organised by the PN in several decades. The party said it is inviting all those “disgusted” by the most recent government scandal to join the protest. This has been organised in response to the revelations that Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi owns a trust in New Zealand with shares in a company registered in blacklisted Panama. It also comes after the opposition leader on Sunday gave the Prime Minister a 24-hour ultimatum to shoulder responsibility for what has taken place.

Dr Busuttil said that the scandal is “unprecedented” and of “epic proportions.”

“This is a national protest, this is an open invitation. The Nationalist Party is giving a voice to all those who are sick of the corruption, who want clean politics and who are disgusted by the current situation,” said Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil in a press conference this evening.

Panama is known for its financial secrecy, meaning that the companies registered in the country are not subject to outside scrutiny, allowing for the possibility of individuals to hide assets and bank accounts, and therefore evade tax.

Minister Mizzi has since announced that he will be closing down the company after an audit conducted by the Tax Commissioner – however Panama’s financial secrecy regulations render this audit obsolete, as the country is under no obligation to pass on any information.

“Without at doubt, this is too little too late,” said Dr Busuttil.

Asked about whether Dr Mizzi’s decision to close the company in Panama is an admission of guilt, Dr Busuttil said it is “absolutely” so.

“He would not have closed the company if everything was perfectly fine. This does not address the root of the problem however. The root of the problem is the craze of corruption Malta is currently experiencing,” he said.

Dr Busuttil slammed the Prime Minister for not doing what is expected in a “normal, democratic” country. He also hit out at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for not shouldering political responsibility.

Asked about what assurances the public have that no more government ministers would be opening up companies in tax havens such as Panama, Dr Busuttil said that there are no assurances, and that such countries are chosen specifically because it almost impossible to expose the financial dealings within.

“One thing we are sure of, we do not believe Konrad Mizzi and neither do the Maltese and Goziton population.”

He reiterated that since the Prime Minister did not do what is expected of him in a democratic country, the PN will be giving the people a platform to express their anger and disgust.

Dr Busuttil stressed the fact that both Minister Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri got caught out, and did not offer the information themselves. He criticised Mr Schembri for not having the decency to respond to allegations that he has a company in blacklisted Panama, as he did not disclose where the company contained by his New Zealand trust is registered.

It was stressed that Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri are the two most powerful men on the island, after the Prime Minister. He highlighted the fact that the pair are extremely close to the Dr Muscat, and that he finds it hard to believe that the Prime Minister did not know about the companies, and questioned whether he was personally involved in the scandal.

He also spoke about how much Dr Mizzi has been responsible for, such as the selling off of Enemalta, Karin Grech Hospital, the Gozo hospital and more. He said that trust for Dr Mizzi has been lost, and questioned whether he is the right person to be responsible for so much, in light of recent events.

In a statement, the Labour Party said that Simon Busuttil said a lot, but said nothing. The PL also said that the PN leader was hiding behind parliamentary privilege by not repeating remarks in public. The PL also said that he dodged questions this evening about whether there are PN MP’s who hold trusts overseas. 

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