The Grilling of Joseph Muscat

The day when Joseph Muscat appeared in front of the inquiry was a landmark moment in the Daphne Caruana Galizia case. Although the former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat achieved significant success for Malta, he left the country in political turmoil, with several loose ends related to the assassination of one of the country’s most prominent journalists.

Many would argue that this assassination is partly his failure, as it took place under his watch and is being closely linked to his former office. Eyes were on him as he entered the courtroom, and as one would expect, he was well prepared. Joseph Muscat’s strategy revolved around a twenty-minute attack at the beginning, and replies to the questions that followed.

He heavily criticised the inquiry stating that it was influenced by politics and that it did not make any reference to before 2013. The approach highlights a certain tension between the former Prime Minister and the inquiry board. The members of this judiciary are esteemed judges with a very solid background in handling difficult witnesses. They took on his criticism silently without retaliation as he dubbed the inquiry as an “exercise in curiosity”.

When answering to the questions put forth, Joseph Muscat admitted that he knew that a business relationship existed between Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri under the umbrella of the controversial 17 Black. It seems to transpire that the former Prime Minister never adequately investigated this relationship. Whilst he referred to Yorgen Fenech as a friend, he stated that they only met eight to ten times in more than a decade.

He also neglected that a kitchen cabinet existed during his tenure.

Joseph Muscat’s capacity as a prolific speaker cannot be questioned. With that said, during the questioning, his answers appeared less convincing and when cornered he would argue that his predecessors are also guilty to a similar extent. He argued that although he appears to haven’t done enough about the Panama Papers, his predecessor did nothing when one of his cabinet members was revealed of having an undeclared Swiss account. He also explained that former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami once asked the Tumas Group to help out with flying a Member of Parliament back to Malta for an important vote in 1998.

During the questioning, the former Prime Minister explained how his own Chief of Staff had asked the lead suspect to not flee the country. He also explained that even though he knew he was a suspect, he still invited him to his birthday party, so as to act normally.

Just before his inquiry, he released a set of social media posts on his Facebook page, in a bid to justify his position. What do you make of Joseph Muscat’s stand? Let us know in the comments section below.

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