Testifying in court this week, Attorney General Peter Grech defended his decision to deny opposition leader Adrian Delia a copy of the full Egrant inquiry by arguing that had he done so he would have been “throwing it into the political arena”.
Yet, he had no qualm in passing a copy of the report to justice minister Owen Bonnici – someone who is in the political arena, as is Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who was handed a copy as soon as the inquiry was completed.
But thanks to Grech’s wisdom, Muscat has been able to spin the report in his favour for over 70 days now while the opposition and the rest of the country continue to be denied access to the 1,500-page report.
According to Grech, his actions have kept the report outside the political arena and impeded anyone from making any political capital from it.
Not only did Muscat shed a few tears in a press conference broadcast live on TV but here are a few headlines from the past 10 weeks which I assume Grech finds completely apolitical
- “’Crystal clear’ proof Egrant allegations were ‘undisputed and elaborate attempt at frame-up’ – PM” (Malta Independent 20/07/2018),
- “Magistrate says Panama company not Muscat’s, PM calls for Busuttil’s resignation” (MaltaToday 22/07/2018),
- “Joseph Muscat Claims Victory As Inquiry Dismisses Egrant Story” (Lovin Malta 22/07/2018),
- “Emotional PM – Inquiry confirms Egrant documents were falsified” (TVM 22/07/2018),
- “’Egrant scandal was coordinated attack and Simon Busuttil knew what was happening’ – PM” (Malta Independent 29/07/2018),
- “Egrant inquiry: trust signatures were not the only forgeries, says Muscat” (Times of Malta 12/08/2018).
Clearly Muscat is pushing the narrative that he was the victim of a “frame-up” and former opposition leader Simon Busuttil has been accused of “fabricating” a lie and of putting in danger the lives of every Maltese family. The blame game has been in full swing while Muscat declares his innocence uncontested.
Thanks to the Attorney General’s infinite wisdom, nobody can scrutinise the information on which Muscat is basing his claims. Nor can anyone analyse the evidence provided to and collected by the inquiring magistrate, nor can it be contested.
After months of hearing Muscat’s army of apologists crying for a shred of evidence to support the claims that Muscat’s wife owned an offshore company, suddenly there is no clamour for a shred of proof that Busuttil fabricated a lie.
Grech’s decision has put Muscat at an advantage over everyone, as nobody is in a position to rebut his claims or dissect the full report.
This has not only allowed Muscat to make political capital on a national level, but he has used this advantage in Brussels as he jockeys for a top position within the EU.
First the Panama Papers revelation then the Egrant allegations had all but spelled the end for Muscat’s ambitions to replace Donald Tusk as President of the European Council whose term expires on 30 November 2019.
He has been given the space to play the victim in a situation where nobody can call him out.
His ploy of calling for the publication of the report must be music for the ears of his EU colleagues. Yet while his trusted lawyer Pawlu Lia is busy redacting the report with the declared intention of publishing it, Muscat continues winning more and more time, increasing his chances of wooing his colleagues into handing him a position in Europe.
But as long as the Egrant inquiry remains unpublished and the name of Egrant’s ultimate beneficial owner remains a mystery we’re safe, as is Muscat’s top job in Brussels. And if he does get the job he’ll be eternally grateful to the Attorney General’s infinite ‘wisdom’.