Robert Abela yesterday evening gave his second interview in a week to the national TV station where, among other things, he was asked whether he was sorry for anything that happened during the Labour administration from 2013 onwards.
Asked why he never spoke up about blatant corruption scandals, the Prime Minister refuted suggestions that he ever defended disgraced former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
“When did I defend Keith Schembri? Give me one example,” he challenged interviewer Mark Laurence Zammit at least three times, smiling proudly at the lack of response.
Zammit didn’t have access to a Google search, but we do.
So here are the first three examples of when Robert Abela defended Keith Schembri even after it was revealed that he owned a secret Panama company which he began setting up just days after Labour was elected to government.
Exhibit A. 20th July 2017
As Simon Busuttil demands inquiries which have today led to Keith Schembri’s stint in prison, he responds by asking the police to investigate Busuttil for fabricating and promoting claims he knows are untrue. Busuttil points out that this is an anti-democratic move.
Robert Abela takes to Facebook to literally defend Keith Schembri by saying: “When Simon Busuttil on several occasions went to court with this same case in breach of procedure was fine according to him. Now that it’s Keith Schembri going to court for once, this is an attack on democracy and abuse of power. You can’t make this up.”
That aged well.
Exhibit B. 8th May 2017
Maltatoday published an article penned by Robert Abela himself entitled: Of political spins and the inquiry relating to the in genere | Robert Abela.
In it, he takes Simon Busuttil to task for the legal mechanism he is using to desperately make the institutions take action on leaked FIAU reports showing financial crime by Keith Schembri.
Here’s how he concludes:
“Dr Busuttil then interpreted the Magistrate’s decree as meaning that the Magistrate had formally put Keith Schembri under investigation regarding criminal offences, after having accepted the evidence which he tendered to the Magistrate.
This is blatantly untrue since once a Magistrate even receives mere information from a person, which is not even confirmed on oath – relating to even the wildest allegation that a crime punishable with more than three years imprisonment has been committed – and the subject-matter of the allegation still exists, then the Magistrate is duty bound to kick off an inquiry without entering into the merits of whether that allegation is true or otherwise.
Certainly the actions of the Leader of the Opposition have shattered any credibility that he may still have had, as he has once again confirmed that he is ready to resort to anything in order to gain power. Malta deserves better.”
Does this count as defending Keith Schembri and undermining the allegations Simon Busuttil was making against him?
Exhibit C. 19th May 2017
This time Robert Abela was a guest on a Xarabank debate ahead of the upcoming general election, again, literally defending the Labour Party’s actions of the past few years.
It’s worth a watch, even just as a reminder about the political atmosphere of the time, before Labour was re-elected and Keith Schembri was reappointed chief of staff, before the outcome of the Egrant inquiry, before 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech was exposed and before Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered.
“The past is a guarantee of the future,” Abela says at one point without a shred of irony to convince voters to choose Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party again.
His counterpart Norman Vella responds quickly: “So you’re going to open more Panama companies when you’re re-elected?”
Little did either of them know how bad things would actually get in the years that would follow.
In the programme, Abela describes Busuttil’s actions as “disgusting” legal ploys to delay the outcome of the Egrant inquiry.
When Keith Schembri is mentioned, Abela makes no apology for the fact that Schembri opened secret Panama companies. He says Busuttil has “allegations not facts” and if he believes them he should go with them to the right magistrate with them. He also slams Busuttil as lacking credibility, populist and interested only in harming Malta.
So that’s at least three times when Abela had the opportunity to speak out against Schembri but instead defended him and undermined the person whose actions led to criminal charges against him now, four years later.
The question is: Why is Abela so reluctant to say sorry now for having defended Schembri instead of speaking out against what was clearly wrong?