Repubblika president Robert Aquilina has confirmed he was present outside former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s home shortly after it was searched by police but has denied suggestions of collusion with the authorities.
Aquilina told Lovin Malta that he was informed that Muscat’s Burmarrad home was being searched last Thursday, shortly after he delivered a press conference about Pilatus Bank outside the police depot at 9:30am.
This was a few hours after the search took place but a few hours before the news was published by Times of Malta later on that afternoon.
“After the press conference, I went for a coffee and was given information by someone, not a police officer or a court official, that a search on Muscat’s home was ongoing.”
“I decided to visit Burmarrad and check for myself. I drove past Muscat’s home at around 11:15am, parked and observed from afar, around 200m-250m away. I wasn’t hiding but I wasn’t interfering.”
Aquilina said he spotted the police officers and the Times journalists but not the Muscats, and said he later found out the search had already concluded by the time he arrived.
“I was interested to see if the search was happening, not out of curiosity but because it was my duty to be informed so that I would be in a position to take action.”
Government Whip Glenn Bedingfield yesterday questioned why Aquilina was present on site, insinuating nefarious action on the part of the Repubblika president, who he said may not have been a mere observer.
“How did [Robert Aquilina] know about the search? How were the media present on site before the police even arrived? Shouldn’t the Chief Justice be investigating this? They carry out so many inquiries; can’t they carry out an internal inquiry and establish whether or not it is caving to pressure?”
Bedingfield asked whether it was a coincidence that Repubblika had called its press conference “a few minutes” after Muscat’s lawyers presented a court application in front of Magistrate Gabriella Vella on Tuesday, 18th January.
In line with Muscat’s version of events, Bedingfield claimed that the former Prime Minister found out about the search in advance after PN MP Jason Azzopardi had informed certain unnamed people.
“The [Repubblika] press conference was a deviation,” the Whip alleged. “Once it was finished, Aquilina rushed to Burmarrad.”
However, Aquilina dismissed this allegation, stating that he had no idea Muscat had even filed a court application on Tuesday until Bedingfield said so in Parliament.
“This is paranoia. Glenn Bedingfield is inciting hatred against me by insinuating that I didn’t just go to Burmarrad to observe and that I somehow helped coordinate the search. As if I have such powers.”
“My information is that plans for the search were leaked to Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela, and not from Jason Azzopardi. In fact, Robert Abela cancelled his trip to the Dubai Expo so that he can be in Malta when the search was going on.”
Aquilina urged the public to keep him informed of any developments, arguing that “the more information I have, the better my decisions and actions can be.”
Muscat’s home was searched last week as part of a magisterial inquiry into the controversial Vitals Global Healthcare concession that had been requested by Repubblika.
Muscat said he was questioned about consultancy fees he had received from Accutor AG, a Swiss company run by lawyer Wasay Bhatti which had received €3.6 million from Steward Healthcare during the period it had taken over the hospitals concession from Vitals Global Healthcare.
As reported by Times of Malta last November, Muscat received some €60,000 from Accutor AG in consultancy fees shortly after his 2019 resignation as Prime Minister in the wake of a political crisis sparked by Yorgen Fenech’s arrest for the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
However, Matthew Caruana Galizia – son of Daphne Caruana Galizia – said that Muscat’s contract with Accutor AG was actually worth €540,000, €15,000 per month for a minimum of 36 months, and that payments only stopped when UBS closed down Accutor’s accounts.
After the search, Muscat published a video warning he is ready to “start making noise” after two years of relative silence since his resignation as Prime Minister.
Cover photo: Background Image – Joseph Muscat’s Burmarrad home, Images: Repubblika President Robert Aquilina and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
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