The Public Inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna testified on Wednesday.
After taking not of Minister Scicluna’s testiomony the Nationalist Party stated that the sad reality is that Scicluna was an integral part of Muscat’s administration and pushed heavily as the ‘financial guru’ of the Labour Party in the 2013 electoral campaign which brought Muscat to power.
In a statement issued by the Opposition’s spokesperson for Finance Mario De Marco, it was stated that under Scicluna’s financial watch, Labour witnessed “the worst scandal-ridden legislature in history”.
The PN MP said that Edward Scicluna now rails against the fact that decisions were taken by an inner core, which had excluded him from, ignoring the most obvious fact that as a Finance Minister he would have signed off on most of these shady deals.
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On the 21st of August, former police chief Lawrence Cutajar will testify.
Next sitting will be held on Wednesday 19th August. Inland Revenue Commissioner and Planning Authority Chairman expected to testify
Minister Edward Scicluna's testimony ends here.
The board granted permission.
She said that they cannot continue asking questions whey they do not have all the data.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia asked the board if the Minister could present the files regarding the agreement and the project.
Scicluna also said that when he was asked to sign the bank guarantee, they were checking if everything satisfies the government's financial regulations.
The Ministry for Finance was not involved in awarding or implementing the contract, said Scicluna.
Scicluna said that he was involved in the last stages.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia said that according to the minutes on the 12th of June 2013, the bard said that it would consult the Ministry for Finance.
Scicluna said that he never met and did not know who the members of the Programme Review Board were.
He said they used to be informed on which stage was the process in and that he worried about government's liability.
The project was never presented in detail said Scicluna.
Scicluna mentioned that there was an energy expert when he was presented with the presentation on the power station before the 2013 election
He said that there were foreign businessmen involves as well.
Asked if he was involved in the Electrogas deal prior to 2013, Scicluna said no.
He said that he does not know who the real owners of Vitals Global Healthcare are.
Scicluna said that as an MEP, whether it was Tonio Borg or John Dalli, he always defended their position.
Asked if he agreed with the way projects were handed to Projects Malta, Minister Scicluna said that if the projects fell under the Finance Ministry, things would have been dealt with differently.
Scicluna replied that the government created mechanisms that permitted this.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks: Why post 2013 the government did not follow the advice of the permanent secretary and the advice of the Ministry for Finance?
Scicluna replies that he is not aware of this.
Azzopardi asks if Permanent Secretary Alfred Camilleri had instructed the government not to but St Philips Hospital.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now asking questions to Minister Scicluna.
Scicluna said that in those e-mails there are only requests for information and agreed to preset a copy.
Comodini Cachia asks if it is possible for Minister Scicluna to present a copy of the emails sent to Projects Malta.
"I can say that Konrad Mizzi lacked transparency in his work," said Scicluna.
"I never spoke to Silvio Valletta or his wife about cases investigated by the FIAU" – said Scicluna.
He confirmed that when he signed the go-ahead for Silvio Valletta's appointment he knew he was married to a member of the cabinet.
Scicluna says that if the Data Commissioner gives permission for the names to be mentioned he is ready to say the names.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia asks if one of the nominated persons had a background on criminal economic investigations, Scicluna said he does not remember.
Scicluna said that he has to appoint one out of 3.
Questions on how the FIAU board is appointed are put forward by Lawyer Comodini Cachia.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia asks questions about the FIAU reports
The Finance Minister said that from his end he always worked hard to protect financial and budgetary regulations.
He said that he will let investigations take their course then he can tell if he was betrayed or not.
He said he cannot answer such question as there were allegations which were proved wrong.
Scicluna is asked if he still believes in Muscat's, Mizzi's and Schembri's political integrity.
Edward Scicluna said that he was one of the Ministers who asked for Schembri's resignation.
The board mentions how Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna were the basis of all the scandals and allegations and that they both have the answers of all that is happening in the country.
He said he always let FIAU work independently.
Regarding the FIAU report, he said that it troubles him that a whistleblower passes on information to politicians.
He said that he waited for investigations to be concluded.
Comodini Cachia asked why back in 2016 he had given advice on the Panama Papers to Muscat and in 2018, when details on 17 Balck emerged, he did not.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia asks Scicluna if his relationship with Muscat had changed between 2016 and 2018.
Regarding the allegation on 17 Black and the money to be transferred from this offshore company to the Schembri's and Mizzi's Panama companies, Scicluna said he did not speak to Muscat on the matter.
Minister Scicluna said that such agreements were intended toward the national interest.
"Her employment falls under the Foreign Affairs Ministry," said Scicluna.
Judge Lofaro asks Scicluna about Sai Mizzi's wage and what did Malta get in return for such salary.
Minister Edward Scicluna then says that officials within the Ministry were involved to ask for information about Macbridge.
The lawyer also asks Scicluna if the Ministry has a copy of the agreement and if he can present it. Scicluna said that he will check and if yes the document will be presented in court.
He replied that the Ministry for Finance was involved in the China deal because of the buying of shares.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia asks if the Minister was involved in the Montenegro and China deals.
Apart from the Panama leaks, there were also the Swiss leaks and other leaks which he requested information on all.
"PM Muscat said that the decision is up to him. Then we all know what happened" – said Scicluna
He also said that the majority of the parliamentary group had advice PM Muscat to keep distant from the Panama Papers allegations.
Scicluna said that he had expressed his disappointment about the way public funds were used.
He said that in every contract there is the politician who is incorrect and the businessman who is also not correct.
Regarding the Panama Papers: Scicluna said that he had advised PM Muscat to keep distant from the emerging allegations.
Minister Scicluna said that the guarantee was granted so that the loan would be even less and that all was according to EU law.
Comodini Cachia asks how is it possible for the Minister to sign the bank guarantee on a project he was not convinced of?
Minister Scicluna confirms.
Lawyer Comodini Cachia questions if it is to be understood that the Ministry for Finance was involved in the projects after all was decided and just because the projects needed to be offered a guarantee by the government.
He also says that the projects were not part of the discussions during cabinet meetings.
Scicluna replies that there are allegations which are being investigated and therefore he does not wish to comment.
Judge Lofaro asks Scicluna to clarify if therefore it was under Konrad Mizzi's responsibility.
Scicluna says that the Electrogas project was under Projects Malta's responsibility.
Was it Minister Bartolo?
Who was the person behind the AUM project due diligence? Asked Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia.
He says that his ways of managing things and work is different from that of other Ministers.
Regarding the MOU that the board is referring to, he is not aware of and was never brought to his or the Ministry's attention.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks which projects were administered by Projects Malta. Scicluna said that many of the projects are of public knowledge.
It was under Konrad Mizzi's responsibility said Scicluna.
He says that Projects Malta was not transparent in its work and it was something they were experiencing on a regular basis.
Asked if there were any connection between the kitchen cabinet and business. Scicluna said he does not know.
He also says that he was once asked if he was interested to be nominated for President of the European Commission but had refused.
Scicluna says that there were a group of people close to the then Prime Minister and he listened more to their advice.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks about the Kitchen Cabinet and mentioned projects Malta.
"The Ministry never allocated funds if a project was not discussed during Cabinet meetings or if there is no budget allocated for the project/s" said the Minister.
Scicluna replied that he used to raise the issue and that he used to be referred to as Mr No because he used to put his foot down.
The board asks Scicluna that since certain information used to be published by the media if he did ask how the media got to know and the Cabinet not.
Scicluna replied: " Sometimes yes"
The board asks if the projects and MOUs were ever discussed at Cabinet level.
He also says that the Finance Ministry cannot implement MOUs.
Scicluna says that the Ministry he is responsible for was not involved in any project.
The board mentions that there was a scandal reported and the situation deteriorated.
Judge Abigail Lofaro says that although they are not the Police they are responsible.
Lofaro insists that if a decision is taken collectively, then every Ministry is responsible.
Scicluna says that the Ministry for Finance is not the Police.
He then said that in 2018 the Ministry for Finance underwent an IMF test on financial transparency. The result was positive.
"Not every Ministry has a qualified accountant to rely on but the government is working to address this" – said Minister Edward Scicluna.
He said that the Ministry for Finance has always made a request for due diligence for each and every project where public funds were to be spent.
Minister Edward Scicluna said that he is responsible for the allocation of €5,200 million a year so his duty is to make sure that the correct system is in place.
He then says that he cannot conclude if the other minister were part of the inner core.
He then mentions again Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat and how they worked closely together and when it came to the deals on hospitals Konrad Mizzi was involved.
He does not want to mention names as this is his opinion and not a fact.
Scicluna also says he did not feel part of the inner circle close to the government
He refers to the kitchen cabinet which Scicluna says was not part of it.
According to Minister Scicluna, Keith Schembri has a good working relationship with everyone.
He then said that he remembers Schembri and Joseph Muscat as working as a team.
Scicluna says that he did not know Keith Schembri and he always knew him as the Chief of Staff at Castille.
Minister Edward Scicluna takes the witness stand.
She also refers to Matthew Caruana Galizia's testimony during which he mentioned leaked documents on the Electrogas consortium.
Therese Comodini Cachia suggests that the inquiry board should review the NAO's report on Electrogas.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia presents a document with questions regarding Electrogas.
The board has entered the courtroom.
Members of the Caruana Galizia family are present.
We are live from courtroom number 20.
The board of inquiry is led by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, accompanied by former Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino and judge Abigail Lofaro.
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