In spite of disgraced former energy minister Konrad Mizzi’s refusal to answer most of the public accounts committee’s questions, it seemed the disgraced MP could not stop himself from denials of involvement in corruption in the Electrogas deal.
One particular bone of contention was the €40 million excise tax duty that Electrogas was not required to pay, with Opposition MPs reproducing a timeline of events including internal emails, which indicated Mizzi had interfered directly to ensure the tax would be paid by Enemalta given the consortium’s financial difficulties at the time.
While repeatedly stating that he would not answer these questions, Mizzi denied that he had met Electrogas shareholders Turab Musayev and Yorgen Fenech to assure them that he would do what he could to ensure the burden of paying the excise tax was passed on to Enemalta in September 2017.
Mizzi’s lawyers, Jean Paul Sammut and former magistrate Carol Peralta, accused the committee of breaching Mizzi’s rights, with Peralta at one point accusing the committee’s chair of making things up as he went along. Sammut accused the committee’s chair of orchestrating “a frame-up for the gallery,” insisting there “certainly is no corruption” surrounding the deal.
In a three-hour grilling, Mizzi failed to answer most other questions following his claim that the members of the Opposition party on the public accounts committee were subjecting him to “abusive” questions.
The Opposition MPs accused Mizzi of trying to run out the clock until a general election is called, with the same MPs claiming that Mizzi is hoping the Speaker would deliver his ruling next week right before an election announcement is made. This would mean parliament would be dissolved before the proceedings are concluded.
After three other sessions in which Mizzi filibustered the committee’s proceedings by engaging in an “oral presentation” extolling the benefits of the Electrogas project, the former energy minister refused to answer the committee’s questions when asked about his relationship with the members of the negotiation committee which had selected Electrogas as the winning consortium.
Committee Chair and Opposition MP Beppe Fenech Adami, together with MPs Karol Aquilina and Ryan Callus, asked Mizzi about his start in politics – how he met disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his associations with individuals who were involved in the process of awarding the power station tender to the Electrogas consortium.
After just 45 minutes, most of which were taken up by the conclusion to Mizzi’s interminable oral presentation, Mizzi decided to refuse to respond to any further questions, accusing the committee of breaching his rights when confronting him with evidence of how the deal was mired in corruption.
Spurred on by his lawyers, Mizzi defied the committee’s orders to answer their questions and walked out of the sitting to call on the Speaker of the House to “protect” himself “from the Chair’s behaviour”.
Sammut, Peralta and even government MPs Alex Muscat and Glenn Bedingfield accused the Opposition members of the committee of attempting to force their conclusions onto Mizzi, with the government side insisting on “questions, not allegations”, dismissing altogether the extensive reporting which has been carried out on the corruption surrounding the deal.
The public accounts committee will continue its session on Thursday at 2pm.