The bombshell everybody had been waiting for was dropped yesterday evening, when Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed that the owner of Egrant Inc is none other than Michelle Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife. She also prepped her story by claiming that more than a million dollars were transferred from Azerbaijan Premier’s daughter’s company to Egrant.
The allegation is serious - so serious that one shudders before repeating it - and Mrs Caruana Galizia hasn’t yet provided documents to sustain her allegations. But she sure has details. She wrote in her blog that the transfer was made via an Iranian Bank that has only one banking licence worldwide, which was granted under a Labour Government led by Joseph Muscat.
The Prime Minister was right in calling an urgent press conference yesterday evening the moment Daphne Caruana Galizia uploaded her breaking story. But eyebrows were immediately raised when journalists arrived at the Auberge de Castille to find that everything had been set up for a live broadcast press conference. Even the Prime Minister was seen to be too prepared with his delivery.
It is natural for any normal person faced with such outrageous allegations to jump to their own defence, but following the Prime Minister’s words during that rash press conference, the initial reaction was that a statesman would have acted differently.
This should not have simply been Joseph and Michelle Muscat defending their personal reputation, but Malta’s Prime Minister, the leader of the country currently carrying the EU Presidency, defending the country’s reputation. What one would expect is for the Prime Minister to order an immediate investigation and give the police full cover to raid the offices of the Iranian bank in Msida and lift all documents withheld in the bank.
The police need to recover the digital documents held on the bank’s cloud account. This would have given quicker respite to the Prime Minister and his wife than any libel case would be able to give.The PM said, when asked by this newspaper whether he would be ordering a full investigation, for the sake of transparency and to clear his name, that the government would not meddle in the financial services sector. The police, of course, do not need permission to investigate, but the force has not had much of an apetite to investigate anything related to the Panama Papers scandal.
The Prime Minister is facing a tough test. He needs to rise to the occasion and provide a solution to all Maltese citizens, to put everyone’s mind at rest that he is in no way implicated in this case. He cannot change the rules in such a crucial moment. He cannot tell us that it’s his word against that of the journalist. He, as the Prime Minister, not as the leader of a political party, needs to take action for the truth to come out, and the only credible action is that which is taken by democratic institutions, such as the police force.
This leader as published in The Malta Independent daily went to print before, early this morning, the Prime Minister announced that he had ordered an inquiry.