The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

‘Do your job’, Zammit Lewis says as he refuses to answer whether he paid for 2014 hotel stay

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 26 November 2020, 15:22 Last update: about 3 months ago

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis has refused to declare black on white that had paid for a hotel in France back in 2014, telling this newsroom to 'do its job' and ask the PN MPs a number of questions.

Earlier in the day, a news story broke by Lovin Malta that Minister Zammit Lewis and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat went on a private holiday to the Évian-Les-Bains Hilton Hotel in France, owned by the Tumas Group. Sources told Lovin Malta that it was part-funded by the main suspect of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, Yorgen Fenech who used to be a Tumas Group Director. The story read that the holiday was in 2017, however both Muscat and Zammit Lewis said it was actually in 2014.

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Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had, earlier in the day, told The Times of Malta that he stayed with his family and that of Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis at the Évian-Les-Bains Hilton in northern France in 2014. Muscat told Times of Malta that, "The stay in France some years back was part of a family holiday, and no local taxpayer or EU funds were used. We travelled from and back to Malta on commercial flights and paid accordingly." When pressed to clarify whether he had paid for the accommodation or just the flights, Muscat said, "I replied quite clearly", and referred the newspaper back to its original source.

The Malta Independent sent a number of questions to Zammit Lewis, asking for information as to who, exactly, paid for the accommodation at the Hilton hotel. He was also asked whether he would welcome an investigation into the matter and whether he intends to suspend himself as Minister or from the Parliamentary Group for an investigation to take place.

Zammit Lewis then published a Facebook statement, saying the news article - which was originally published on Lovin Malta, was aimed at damaging his political character and the work he has done in favour of the rule of law and good governance.

There was no 2017 trip, he said on Facebook (given that the original article on Lovin Malta read that the trip was in 2017). "We travelled to France with our respective families in 2014. In Easter of 2017, I was abroad with my family in Sicily." He said that, in 2014, the two families paid for their scheduled commercial flights. "I have never asked for favours, freebies or free accommodation."

Lovin Malta's story, he said on Facebook, was "deceitful." Despite their statements, neither Muscat nor Zammit Lewis have explicitly stated that they paid for the accommodation, with the latter saying only that he never asked for any free accommodation and not that he never accepted any.

This newsroom again sent a message to the minister to ask for a clarification and to tell him that the original questions still stand.

"My answers still stand about a family vacation which happened 6 years ago," Zammit Lewis responded.

He was asked to clarify whether, ultimately, he paid for his and his family's accommodation completely or if it was partly paid for by someone else, or given for free.

"I never asked for anything to be free," he said, then suggesting that this newsroom investigate PN MPs who he says are renting hotels from the Tumas Group or still doing legal work for them. "Do your job well like I did on introducing radical reforms in our system," he said.

This newsroom responded by again asking him for a clear answer. "I understand you never asked for anything to be free, however I am asking, concretely, did you pay for the hotel or did someone else pay it for you? If someone else paid for it, who did?"

"Do your job. My last answer is very clear," Zammit Lewis said.

This newsroom highlighted that it is doing its job and that his answer was not clear.

"It's very clear," he insisted.

This newsroom highlighted that he has yet to say that he paid for it and only said that he didn't ask for it to be free.

"I never asked for anything to be free. I answered. Now ask the other questions I told you pls. Do your job"

This newsroom persisted: "Minister did you pay for it, yes or no?"

"I answered," he responded.

Once again, he was told that he did not answer.

"Ask opposition MPs now. Waiting for it"

This newsroom, yet again, asked him: Did you pay for it or not?  No response was given.


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