The Malta Independent 4 June 2020, Thursday

PM knew about police scandal yet kept Farrugia in Cabinet – Adrian Delia

Sunday, 16 February 2020, 12:44 Last update: about 5 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela has long known about the police corruption scandal but gave former police minister Michael Farrugia another ministerial portfolio, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said on Sunday.

Speaking in Zabbar, Delia noted that the PM had accepted Justyne Caruana’s resignation but used a different yardstick when it came to Farrugia.

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The reputation of police force has been dealt a huge blow after it emerged that many of the Traffic Branch members were involved in an overtime abuse, protection money and fuel misappropriation racket. 41 officers have been arrested so far, including senior figures in the branch.

Delia said Michael Farrugia had admitted that systems meant to flag abuse in the force had failed. “He has admitted that there is chaose in the force, that those who were supposed to be defending us against criminals were criminals themselves.”

Calling for political responsibility to be shouldered, Delia said the PM knew about this for a long time yet he kept Farrugia in his Cabinet. “What does Michael Farrugia know that Justyne Caruana did not,” Delia asked. “Why was he treated differently? We will find out.”

While everyone was calling for former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar’s resignation, the PM has appointed him consultant on security, Delia added, “despite all that happened under his watch.”

He said that the chaos that is currently reigning within the police force is the result of having four commissioners in a four-year time span.

Delia thanked all the serious police officers who carry out their duties diligently, often at personal risk, and who earn their pay. “We can never generalise, but this is what happens when the leadership is in decay, where there is a lack of discipline and governance. When there is chaos at the top, those at the bottom will do whatever they want.”

At the end of the day it is the people who suffer, he said, adding that the problems that the PN has been flagging for months, such as the lack of police presence in several areas, is also a result of this situation.

Delia said Malta’s economy is now built on corruption and criminality. “We built hospitals, not sold them. We built infrastructure not sold our services to those who did not even deserve to come to our country.”

He referred to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund, which highlighted Malta’s dependence on foreign workers as well as proceeds from the IIP, while also cautioning the country on its approach to money-laundering.

“The report shows that we failed the exam. There will be consequences in the months to come – Malta could end up on the blacklist, meaning it will not be attractive to foreign investors. And what is the Finance Minister doing about this? He is handing out €15 cheques. When faced with a report saying that a crisis is approaching he is sending us a cheque instead of doing what needs to be done.”

While compensating people for risings prices was a good thing, “we could have given out €500 cheques if we were not being robbed on the hospitals deal, and another €500 if we were not being robbed on the Electrogas deal,” Delia said.

€15 per hour is what Konrad Mizzi would be earning now had his consultancy contract not been uncovered, he added.

The Opposition Leader also commented on this week’s meeting between the Prime Minister and Peter Omtzigt, during which former Justice Minister Owen Bonnici was chastised for failing to implement pledged reforms. “Owen Bonnici did nothing, so Abela made him Education Minister, because this is what he does with people who fail to act.”

Turning to the hospitals deal, Delia said Konrad Mizzi had given the concession despite the fact that the company had no capital to speak of. “The millions they promised to invest never materialised. And, when Steward Health Care took over, they kept the same CEO.”

“Even people who are not legal experts will immediately realise that we are being robbed. But Robert Abela has not realised yet, and has appointed a team of experts to decide whether we should continue giving them money,” Delia said.

“We have given them €220 million so far and, Joseph Muscat, fresh back from his holidays, said we should give them more. Add them up – how many €15 euro cheques would we be able to give instead of this corrupt deal?”

He pledged to continue the fight to give the hospitals back to the Maltese. “This will remain my fight. We will never give up.”

Speaking about the PN reform, Delia said there is a growing group of people who understand that the PN needs those who give time, passion and loyalty to the party in this moment of need.

He thanked Francis Zammit Dimech, who has offered to serve as interim Secretary General, his predecessor, Clyde Puli, and Censu Galea, who is the new president of the PN General Council.

This weekend’s Executive committee meeting gave the last push for the reform to be implemented, Delia said. “We will reform the party to reflect modern realities,” he said, adding that young people would be part of the change.

Speaking before Delia, Zammit Dimech said the PN’s test is to serve as a single team with absolute loyalty towards the party. Malta, he said deserves a united party and a strong opposition.

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