The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has confirmed a story by The Shift published in January in which it was revealed that the tickets for a trip to Dubai for Joseph Muscat and his family were purchased by a third party in Jordan.
The report by Commissioner George Hyzler also proves that the former Prime Minister lied to journalists when he said that the trips to Dubai were bought using his “personal funds”.
The Shift had revealed how the trip by the Muscat family trip to Dubai cost at least €20,000 through tickets purchased in Jordan. The disgraced former Prime Minister went to his favourite holiday destination in December 2019, at a time when protests were being held in the country’s Capital following revelations made in court linking those closest to him to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
The expense of the trip to Dubai continued to raise questions about Muscat’s bank balance which has remained unchanged ever since he declared his balance in 2014.
In the report, The Shift had stated that “either Muscat has a bank account or an agent in Jordan, or he is lying to the public yet again and the tickets were purchased by another person in the country as yet another ‘gift’ he received.”
It followed revelations that Muscat had received expensive gifts from Yorgen Fenech, accused of being the mastermind of the journalist’s assassination. This followed reports of events in which the two were seen together.
Partit Demokratiku Leader Timothy Alden o asked the Standards Commissioner to investigate findings by The Shift on the same day the article was published – 7 January. Opposition Leader Adrian Delia also filed a request the following day.
While Hyzler confirmed The Shift’s report, he said there was no breach because the code of ethics is narrowly drafted to mean the gift must be from someone with an interest in affecting legislation.
When Muscat was asked by the press to state who had paid for the trip, Muscat had replied: “None of your business”. He then added that it was through his “private funds”.
The Standards Commissioner’s report now confirms Muscat had lied to the public. In his conclusions, Hyzler said the trip was not related to Muscat’s duties as Prime Minister and it appears no public funds were used.
“This allegation (that the trip was paid by third parties) was mainly fuelled by the declaration made by Muscat that he had used personal funds for the Dubai trip, which provoked the question as to how could one reconcile the obviously excessive expenditure of these two trips with the income and declared savings of the Prime Minister. This is a legitimate question that gives rise to genuine concerns.”
The Commissioner also said Muscat’s “none of your business reply” ought to have been less arrogant as politicians are accountable to the public,” particularly in light of the particular circumstances the country was experiencing and events that were unfolding at the time”.
Hyzler says in the report that he considered it prudent not to publish the details and purpose of the trip – at Muscat’s request.
Yet the report confirms the tickets were purchased from a travel agency in Amman, called Travel Masters. The tickets were first issued for business class but some time later, they were cancelled and reissued in First Class with over €21,000 spent from the four tickets. This is the amount The Shift had reported.
Earlier this month, the Standards Commissioner concluded Muscat was in breach of ethics when he accepted the expensive wine as a gift from Fenech, the suspected mastermind in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat had reacted saying he did not agree with the Commissioner’s report saying that it was based on “perception” rather than facts.
Muscat’s lavish lifestyle somehow did not dent his bank balance declared in parliament, unchanged since 2014. His spokesperson had told Reuters that Muscat’s salary was €55,978, plus €6,769 in allowances.