The Malta Independent 10 July 2020, Friday

‘Not a bad idea’ for police to question Joseph Muscat, head of EP delegation says

Albert Galea Wednesday, 4 December 2019, 14:29 Last update: about 8 months ago

It would not be a bad idea for the police to question Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the head of the European Parliament delegation in Malta Sophie In ‘t Veld said on Wednesday. 

Speaking on behalf of the delegation that she led, In ‘t Veld said that after meeting all stakeholders in connection with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case, their concerns had not been allayed at all and called for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat so to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

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The Dutch MEP who forms part of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament said that there are serious concerns about Muscat staying in office even if just for the next 40 days.  She said that these 40 days are going to be crucial and noted that the delegation does not want any risk, or even perceived risk, to the investigation being compromised in any way.  As long as Muscat is in office, she said, there isn’t the absolute confidence required in the investigation.

Asked by The Malta Independent whether given new details emerging everyday which continue to imply a connection between the government and the murder, including a testimony on Wednesday morning from alleged middleman Melvin Theuma where he said that he had been given a job in the government just days after the assassination was first ordered, the Prime Minister should not only resign but be investigated, In ‘t Veld said that it would “not be a bad idea” for the police to question Muscat.

“I think that it is a matter for the police to decide, but I think there are some people who should answer questions and I don’t think it would be a bad idea for them to question him”, she said.

She said that she finds it very hard to imagine how the situation in terms of Schembri and Muscat worked, noting that Keith Schembri, whom she described as Muscat’s closest confidant, appeared in every case – be it related to people caught up in a murder case, be it in corruption scandals, be it in offshore companies, and even in the Panama Papers.

“What does that say about the Prime Minister? Either he has been incredibly naive while all this was going on under his nose; or he was part of the problem...working together with him; or his judgement has completely failed him”, she said.

“So I think it is also in his own interest that if he says he has nothing to do with everything, he gives all the information.  He’s not been very generous with information” she continued.

As a parting remark, she said that “he could start by maybe publishing the famous Egrant report”.

 

Speaking during the press conference, In ‘t Veld noted that the progress being done in the investigation is positive, but there remain concerns over the integrity of the process.  She said that there were “grave concerns” that other investigations which are clearly connected to the murder, such as investigations into money laundering, have either not started or are not being conducted very vigorously.

She noted the importance of the presence of Europol, calling for them to have full access to all relevant investigations and noting that their involvement had increased in past weeks.

She spoke of worrying signals about the safety of the livelihood and independence of journalists, and threats to the right for peaceful demonstration.  She said that she was “very annoyed” to see that the hate campaign against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia has not abated, and called for this to stop.

She said that it is vital for constitutional reforms as indicated by the Venice Commission are implemented quickly and fully, and noted that the European Union will continue to monitor the situation. A debate in the European Parliament likely to result in a resolution is likely to follow, she said.

The delegation fielded questions from a packed room of journalists, with questions ranging from whether there is a threat to any of the evidence in the case to whether descriptions of Malta as a “mafia state” are justified.

In the case of the latter, the MEPs all said that this is not an apt description, but in the case of the former, In ‘t Veld said that the very fact that this point is being raised by the delegation is because they fear that there is a risk. She said that even if it is only a perceived risk, it completely undermines the trust in the investigation. “I believe it is a real risk, but even if it is perceived, I think it is reasonable for any politician to say that if they are standing between trust, then they should leave”, she said.

Meanwhile, the Socialist & Democrat’s representative on the delegation, German MEP Birgit Sippel, was asked whether the group was mounting pressure on the Labour Party to take serious action and remove Muscat from office, she said that action must be taken and that “the trust is completely destroyed”.

The ECR’s representative, Belgian MEP Assita Kanko, spoke of how the fact that the delegation is in Malta is a clear message in itself.  “Killing a journalist is like stabbing democracy”, she said before adding that she was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” with what she had seen in Malta and would never forget the “heartbreaking pain” that she could see in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s children.

The delegation, which arrived in Malta on Monday evening and met a number of figures including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Minister, Attorney General, Police Commissioner, journalists, NGOs, and Caruana Galizia’s families, was made up of seven members, one from each different political group in the European Parliament.

Renew Europe’s Sophie In ‘t Veld was the head of the delegation, while the remaining six members were Roberta Metsola (EPP), Birgit Sippel (S&D), Sven Giegold (Greens), Assita Kanko (ECR), Nicolaus Fest (ID), and Stelios Kouloglou (GUE/NGL).

 

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