Any “business” the Prime Minister had was everybody’s business and the public should know what it was all about, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said.
In comments to The Shift, Delia pointed out that his letter to the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life asking to investigate whether Joseph Muscat breached Parliament’s code of ethics in light of his recent trip to Dubai, was “specifically intended” to drive this point through – “it is our business”.
Delia took this step in light of information that emerged when The Shift reported that the tickets for Muscat and his family were purchased in Jordan and cost around €20,000, which is close to half of his annual salary as prime minister. Similarly, when earlier in the day, journalist Jacob Borg asked Muscat who paid for the trip, Muscat replied: “none of your business”.
In his letter to Commissioner for Standards of Public Life George Hyzler, Delia pointed out that the code of ethics for members of Parliament clearly stated that any trip that was paid for, in part or completely, by any third party had to be declared in Parliament. Also, MPs could not accept gifts, donations or benefits of any kind that could place them under any obligation.
According to the code of ethics of Members of Parliament, “a Member of the House of Representatives, shall not accept gifts from person or persons, groups or companies that have or had any direct or indirect interest in legislation before the House of Representatives”.
“When asked by the media, his disdain for journalists seeking the truth shone through his cowardly retort of ‘none of your business’,” Delia said.
Muscat should have immediately resigned. “Even when he was forced out through unprecedented revelations surrounding the Office of the Prime Minister, which is currently being investigated for assassinating Daphne Caruana Galizia, he hung on to seat of power till the bitter end,” Delia pointed out.
If Muscat intended “taking luxurious holidays he should spared our country the agony and anguish of his extended illegitimate government but instead persists to stay on till the last day but on vacation,” Delia said.
Muscat travelled in first class with his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters on 27 December for a three-day stay at Dubai. Sources said the flights cost €4,998 each for the family of four and that the tickets from Malta to Dubai were purchased in Jordan.
Since 2014, Muscat has always declared the same bank balance to parliament and, from 2015 onward, has simply taken to stating “salary prime minister” instead of disclosing the actual amount. His spokesman had told Reuters late last year that Muscat’s salary was €55,978, plus €6,769 in allowances.
Muscat has also come under criticism after it emerged that he received a limited edition Bvlgari watch from businessman Yorgen Fenech, who is being accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of Caruana Galizia. He has tried to divert attention by claiming that a similar watch was also given to the protagonists of Malta’s EU accession negotiations but this has already been denied by those involved, namely former President Eddie Fenech Adami, former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Malta’s first EU Commissioner Joe Borg, chief EU negotiator Richard Cachia Caruana and former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil.
The prime minister was also given three bottles of Pétrus, a Bordeaux red wine worth thousands, by Fenech. Connoisseurs who spoke to The Shift estimated the value of the three bottles given to Muscat at some €5,000.