Prime Minister Robert Abela has challenged PN MP Jason Azzopardi to utilise his parliamentary privilege to name the sitting minister who convicted murderer Vince Muscat has implicated in a “big job”.
“He often makes use of parliamentary privilege and enjoys immunity there, so why doesn’t he name the minister and explain the connections?” Abela questioned when asked by journalists about Muscat’s pardon request at a political activity today.
“When he does so, I will be in a situation where I can regulate my position. Until then, I insist this is part of a strategy to use the judicial process to help in the quest for power.”
He added that Muscat himself should name the minister to the police commissioner.
Asked how Cabinet will be able to discuss a pardon request if one of his sitting ministers is the person Muscat has information on, Abela said he expects his team to abide by the same recusal standards in place for magistrates and judges.
“The exact same criteria which regulate the reasons for judiciary recusal should apply to Cabinet, but so far it doesn’t seem as though any of these criteria apply to a minister. If there are, rest assured that the minister will abstain [from the pardon discussion] but so far there aren’t any.”
Muscat has testified in the Caruana Galizia murder court case that former Economy Minister Chris Cardona and another sitting minister were involved in a major crime he and his accomplices were involved in some years ago.
Although he didn’t name the crime, it’s believed to be a reference to the failed heist on HSBC’s Qormi headquarters back in 2010. He didn’t name the minister involved, with magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit telling him to only name people related to the case he was testifying about, which was the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Muscat, who has already received a presidential pardon in return for information about the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop, yesterday requested a second pardon to reveal information on two unnamed failed armed robberies and one unnamed assassination.
Questioned about his request, Abela called for caution on granting a carte blanche pardon to major criminals.
“Let’s not forget that these requests imply their own involvement in serious crimes and we cannot forget this point of departure,” he said. “We’re talking about a number of people who, by their own admissions and requests for pardons, are involved in organised crime.”
“The circle of organised crime was certainly built before 2013 [when PL entered government] but its roots were consolidated earlier, including within certain ministries before 2013.”
“I won’t mention names because I don’t want to impact the judicial process but in recent weeks, previously untouchable people were prosecuted. There was impunity in the past, and some people knew they were untouchable.”
“Under my government, the one bit of direction I gave investigative authorities was not to give impunity to anyone. I had to encourage the institutions and give a clear message that the government is behind them to ensure the truth emerges, even with regards to untouchable criminals and situations where everyone had closed an eye, either out of fear or other considerations.”
“What’s certain is that these considerations don’t work with Robert Abela’s government. All the decisions that had to be taken were taken, and the prosecution of people as a result of these decisions shows how committed we are in our work in the sector.”
The Prime Minister also reminded people how PN governments in the 90s had infamously pardoned the cocaine trafficker Francesco De Assis Queiroz and Joseph Fenech (known as Żeppi l-Ħafi).
“A Prime Minister [Eddie Fenech Adami] met up with a criminal [Żeppi l-Ħafi] outside the official structures in the dead of night, against the advice of the authorities. The result was that the court didn’t believe the person who was pardoned.”