Tempers flared in Parliament this evening as Opposition Leader Adrian Delia and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne went head to head over the latest revelations regarding the company 17 Black.
The debate was requested by Delia following reports last week that the owner of 17 Black is Yorgen Fenech, CEO of Tumas Group. The group is one of the shareholders of GEM Holdings, itself a shareholder in the Electrogas consortium that operates the LNG power station in Delimara.
17 Black is the Dubai company that was described as the target client for the Panama companies of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. According to leaked emails revealed in the Panama Papers, the companies were set to receive €150,000 each month from 17 Black.
“There is nothing clean about this story,” said Delia. Comparing the approach that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took with regard to the Egrant Inc. allegations, Delia called on Muscat to take the same approach and requested the resignations of Mizzi and Schembri.
“We know about these companies and we know who owns them. Using the same yardstick, Schembri and Mizzi should resign,” Delia said.
“The Prime Minister is confusing criminal responsibility with political responsibility. This story is hurting Malta and its reputation. People out there have already made their judgment. We are here to lead, not abuse from the system. This is what the rule of law means. Political responsibility must be shouldered. If Schembri and Mizzi don’t resign, the Prime Minister must shoulder that responsibility.”
Replying, Fearne referred to a communication issued by the Nationalist Party’s communications office, requesting journalists to attend a press conference scheduled for 7pm this evening. “You assumed we wouldn’t want to debate this issue, but we have no problem debating,” said Fearne.
He stressed that the inquiries are ongoing and the institutions should be allowed to do their work before any decisions are taken.
He also made reference to allegations that were made against Delia in the past regarding funds that allegedly passed through a client account in Delia’s name which originated from prostitution in London.
“The only MP against whom there are allegations but no inquiries ongoing is the Hon. Delia. Go to court tomorrow and request the opening of procedures. What are you afraid of?,” said Fearne.
Fearne closed by saying last week’s reports by Times of Malta and Reuters seem to originate from a leaked FIAU report. This shows that institutions are indeed doing their work, and they should be allowed to do so without influence.