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Italian Politician Who Criticised Joseph Muscat For Smiling Arrested For Corruption

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A former Italian MEP who has strongly criticised the Maltese government for corruption in the past has been placed under house arrest as part of a corruption probe.

Lara Comi, a former MEP for Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, was put on house arrest by Italy’s finance police today as part of a corruption probe. She has been accused of making use of false receipts to benefit from several thousands of euros.

A few years ago, Comi strongly criticised Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for smiling and laughing as MEPs grilled him about the Panama Papers and Malta’s money laundering laws.

“I am also convinced that the Maltese Prime Minister should come to Europe with a very different attitude because we cannot accept that he continues to laugh and smile during the plenary session while colleagues and commissioners are there to discuss serious matters like migration and the Panama Papers, and everything that has to do with tax havens,” she had said.

“Therefore I say to the Maltese Prime Minister, as an Italian national, please respect this institution. If you want to laugh and smile, I’m sorry but this is not the right place because here we don’t laugh but we solve problems, something that he is not able to do in his country.”

She was also invited to Malta in 2015 to address conference on security and surveillance organised by PN MEP David Casa, her personal friend. In her speech, she said it was unthinkable that the Maltese authorities thought it appropriate to suspend Schengen whilst at the same time allowing the influx of thousands from Libya and Algeria in a process that has clearly been tainted by institutionalised corruption.

During this year’s European Parliament election campaign, PL MEP Alfred Sant had pounced on Casa’s personal friendship with Comi to discredit the PN MEP’s true desire to fight corruption.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona argued that Comi’s arrest has dealt a hammer blow to the Nationalist Party’s credibility.

“David Casa and Simon Busuttil are shoulder to shoulder with people like Lara Comi, who has just been arrested over corruption,” he said. “Casa had brought her to Malta to teach us about the rule of law. Once again, the PN’s credibility has been dealt a hammer blow.”

Cyrus Engerer, the Prime Minister’s special envoy to the EU, said that his friend used to work at Comi’s office and that the two of them would often talk about how her words and actions contradicted each other.

“A few years ago, when Casa started urging [Comi] to talk against Malta (because he believes it’s important that foreigners talk against Malta under a Labour government), my friend and I were shocked because we knew what was being said about her.”

“The truth is that there is right and wrong on both sides and I pity those people, like Casa and his friends, who try to say that their side is always right or that the other side is always wrong. Corruption must be fought by credible people who call out wrongdoing regardless of who is in government.”

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