Did PN MP Jason Azzopardi just make a massive U-turn in court over allegations that Minister Carmelo Abela was involved in a notorious attempted bank heist?
Some media reports certainly indicate as such.
“Azzopardi testifies in court that he wasn’t referring to Minister Abela with regards to the attempted HSBC hold-up”, PL’s media house ONE News wrote in its headline.
Similarly, TVM reported that “Azzopardi said he wasn’t referring to Minister Abela but to an ex-politician”.
It later edited the headline to clarify that Azzopardi wasn’t referring to Abela “at the end of his post”.
So what happened exactly?
Abela sued Azzopardi for libel last April after the PN MP published the following Facebook post, which implicated the minister in the notorious 2010 failed heist on HSBC’s headquarters.
Azzopardi continued his testimony at the libel case yesterday, with Abela’s lawyer Pawlu Lia questioning him specifically about the last line in his post.
“Christ’s tomb is better than being complicit in phone calls to threaten witnesses, with Signal phone calls to the mastermind,” Azzopardi had said.
Lia asked Azzopardi what phone calls he was referring to, and the PN MP responded that he wasn’t referring to Abela in this line but to a former politician.
He offered to testify further behind closed doors.
However, the rest of Azzopardi’s post still implicated Abela, meaning two politicians were allegedly involved in the crime.
This isn’t a particularly new development.
Last March, Vincent Muscat – who has been convicted for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and who has been facing charges over the HSBC heist since 2010 – said that a sitting minister and former Economy Minister Chris Cardona were both involved in a ‘big job’.
A few days later, Azzopardi delivered a parliamentary speech in which he alleged that Cardona had even been arrested in connection with the heist.
He also said that the sitting minister (who he didn’t name at that stage) had provided the bank robbers with replicas of the keys to HSBC’s headquarters, which allowed them to enter the bank, as well as footage of the bank to show them how to access the vaults.
In April, after Abela mocked him over his infamous trip to Israel, Azzopardi named Abela as the sitting minister, prompting Abela to sue him for libel.
Both Abela and Cardona have denied any involvement in the heist.
Vince Muscat, along with Darren ‘it-Topo’ Debono (not the oil trader and former footballer), are facing a range of charges, including aggravated theft, the attempted murder of two police officers, and holding officers against their will.
They are now set to face a trial by jury.
So far the saga has been very much a game of shadows, and whether Azzopardi and Muscat are telling the truth on Abela and Cardona remains to be seen.
But whatever the case, it’s only right that their claims are fairly represented.
What do you make of this latest development in the HSBC saga?