Scroll to 07:17 on this extract from the Joseph Muscat interview on TVM this week.
The interviewer is about to ask a question about what Joseph Muscat did when he found out about Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s Panama companies. But Joseph Muscat thinks the question is different. He thinks he’s going to be asked how he found about the Panama companies so he presses the buzzer prematurely.
Interviewer: “Meta Keith u Konrad ġew ħdejk u qalulek li fetħu dawk il-kumpaniji fil-Panama …”
Joseph Muscat: “Jien sirt naf mill-mezzi tax-xandir …”
The interviewer’s jaw drops for a second but he worries he’s going to lose his train of thought and finishes the question he meant to ask. He overlooks the significance of what Joseph Muscat has just said there.
This time he should have allowed Joseph Muscat to distract him. He had just dropped a flat but extremely important lie.
Go back to when we first discovered the Panama companies after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s reporting. It’s February 2016 and the Panama Papers are still a twinkle in the eyes of busy journalists mining data on their computers all over the world. But Daphne reported in Malta that Konrad Mizzi had a Panama company wrapped in a New Zealand trust. That was the first time you and I heard of it.
In his interview this week Joseph Muscat claimed he found out when we did.
But in Parliament on 24 February 2016, Joseph Muscat said the opposite. This is from the Times of Malta parliamentary report at the time:
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in Parliament this evening that the Dr Mizzi’s trust in New Zealand and his company in Panama were listed in his draft declaration of assets which was to be tabled in Parliament soon.
He made his declaration after Opposition leader Simon Busuttil asked the Prime Minister for a ministerial statement.
Questioned on whether this news, combined with the fact that Dr Mizzi is entrusted with multi-million government projects worried him, Dr Muscat said that he would only be worried if the minister didn’t declare what he’s done.
If Joseph Muscat really found out about the Panama companies from the media, he has just admitted lying to Parliament, misleading it on a point of fact in defence of a government minister who next day was elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He has also admitted fabricating the story of a declaration of assets by Konrad Mizzi that included the Panama companies handed to him before the company was exposed by Daphne Caruana Galizia which means he publicly testified to a fraudulent document saying he knew a signed document was written on the date it carried when instead he knew it was fraudulently backdated.
Now, understand this. The really significant thing here is that Joseph Muscat was caught in a lie. He either lied this week on TV or he lied to Parliament in 2016. Which one is the lie and which one may be true is secondary. After all, both can be lies.
Fit this extract of the interview in its proper context. Rewind to just before this question is asked and prematurely and falsely answered and you’ll find Joseph Muscat is making his Egrant case alleging once again that ‘someone’ forged documents to make it look like he owned Egrant.
As the thought has barely left his mind, he covers up the time he himself participated in the forging of an official document to cover up the fact that he knew about Konrad Mizzi’s companies not merely days or weeks before Daphne reported about it.
As Joseph Muscat’s interviewer Mark Zammit says a few moments later, is Joseph Muscat surprised people think he was part of the whole thing?
Daphne understood this implicitly. By 28 April 2016, the ICIJ published the damning Panama Papers and Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi’s evasions were no longer possible. By then as well, Konrad Mizzi’s asset declaration that Joseph Muscat said he had seen before Daphne’s reporting was published. That day she wrote:
Obviously, this business about the draft declaration submitted to the Prime Minister is a lie – both the Prime Minister and his favoured Minister are lying to save their skins – but the way they can’t even get their lines straight is a farce. If Mizzi’s declaration of assets including his Panama company and New Zealand trust were really dated 8 February, then he would have had no reason to conceal from Malta Today at the end of that month the fact that he doesn’t just have a trust but also a company. And when the two of them were fudging around trying to fend off journalists who asked for the names, saying that they couldn’t remember or didn’t know, if that declaration dated 8 February were really in existence, all they would have had to do is consult it and, more pertinently, publish it.
If Joseph Muscat said what he said this week at the desk of a police interrogator or testifying in his own defence in a courtroom, he’d be toast.