So, Joseph Muscat was riled yesterday, poked by incessant questions from the chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Darren Carabott, insisting he would not be made a parrot, which is exquisitely ironic given the recent revelation that he was billing a parrot trading company more than ten grand a month for a slice of his all-knowing brain.

Darren Carabott seemed determined not to repeat the Opposition’s accommodating performance of the first session of Joseph Muscat’s testimony to the committee. That first time commenters marvelled at Muscat’s poise, the confidence he showed when answering questions, his steady tone of confidence and competence as he mouthed a forty-minute presentation about complex energy policy questions with the ease of an expert and the clarity of a seasoned communicator.

Ara kemm hu bravu, his followers said, congratulating themselves for following him. Almost without reluctance his detractors agreed, impressed with his eloquence. No wonder the man charges ten grand a month to advice a parrot trading company that makes barely that monthly fee in a year, they thought.

And then yesterday Darren Carabott asked the question Joseph Muscat could not, would not answer. Keith Schembri had told the committee in open session that Konrad Mizzi had asked him for an introduction to Nexia BT because, Keith Schembri said, Konrad Mizzi told Keith Schembri he wanted to be more like him. Because “everything you touch is gold”.

Remember that Konrad Mizzi testified before Keith Schembri but Konrad Mizzi’s testimony was nothing more than a repeated plea not to answer questions for fear of incriminating himself.

Darren Carabott asked Joseph Muscat whether this was an “acceptable” remark.

Instead of replying Joseph Muscat rattled his cage like a starved tiger on the edge of the gladiator ring.

Why was this such a tough question for Joseph Muscat?

He insisted repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the choices made before and when Electrogas was chosen to run the new power station. He insisted he had nothing to do with the appointment of Nexia BT in the process either.

If Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi had a conversation about Nexia BT “turning everything into gold” which Joseph Muscat was not a part of, why does Joseph Muscat need to insist the conversation did not happen or did not mean what Keith Schembri intended it to be understood when he testified?

Why was he so rattled? Why couldn’t he resort to his standard technique of distancing himself from conversations he claims he was not part of? Why doesn’t he simply say he cannot know if Keith Schembri was saying the truth or not about Konrad Mizzi and Nexia BT but that whatever may have been said between them, had no bearing on any of his decisions?

This is the same set of questions we asked every day since the Panama Papers were published in early 2016 and Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi got to keep their jobs. Why didn’t he fire them? Why didn’t he distance themselves from their machinations?

Joseph Muscat claims the answer to those questions is not Egrant (and therefore that he was directly complicit in their schemes) and he tried to use that yesterday again. Darren Carabott did not take the bait. Egrant is a rabbit hole lined by Joseph Muscat’s alloy moulded from missing evidence, stolen away in the dead of night, and a tightly controlled inquiry that absolved him without investigating the questions that could have exposed him.

Accepting for the sake of argument that Egrant, and therefore Joseph Muscat’s direct complicity in the Electrogas scandal, is not the answer, there’s nothing rational to explain why Joseph Muscat would not distance himself from Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

He does not explain why Keith Schembri told the committee that Konrad Mizzi had asked for a piece of the action along with the accountants that could cover it up. He does not concede that if it were true, such a statement would have been utterly immoral and a potential warning sign that the two men might have been prepared to conspire to profit illicitly from their government functions.

Now that’s a rabbit hole Joseph Muscat doesn’t want to be dragged into. He never has. The line of questioning now is not ‘why did you go for a gas power station?’ which is a series of questions he can answer with the ease and confidence that he showed at the first PAC session. The line of questioning yesterday and ahead of him is ‘why did you not fire Schembri and Mizzi when you learnt they set up Panama companies through Nexia BT the week you came to power?’

There’s something that Joseph Muscat’s barely reluctant admirers from last week should remember. It is perfectly possible to combine corruption with public utility. I’m not pronouncing judgement on the utility of the Electrogas project but I will concede that the public utility arguments for the project are valid, if not necessarily correct.

Joseph Muscat can sound and even be convincing when he says that the gas-fired power station was a good idea for whatever public utility objectives he may have had. He cites cheaper utility rates (which is questionable), lower emissions (which is to an extent likely), and better security of supply (which is self-evident). All those things can be true though none of those things would change the fact that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi set up Panama companies which identified a company owned by Yorgen Fenech in Dubai as the source of millions in payments for work they would not be doing.

It would not surprise me that Joseph Muscat and his gang were, at the time, convinced they would be cashing kick-backs and bribes for projects they would have believed to amount to a public good. They would have rationalised the illicit rewards and justified them to their conscience, assuming they have one, as proportionate payments for the extraordinary public good they believed they would be doing.

And not every one of their corrupt projects proved quite as catastrophically pointless and wasteful as the privatisation of the three hospitals. The Electrogas power station is there and it is working so Joseph Muscat can patronisingly point to it as the fruit of his genius.

But when he’s asked what he did and did not do to get it done, when he’s reminded of what Keith Schembri said and Konrad Mizzi did not say, the mask of the sapient, smiling genius falls, and what’s left is the cornered rat, rabid with fear and anger, the trenches on his frown deeper than ever, his ability to move weighed down by his wife’s fancy bags, unable to escape the questions of anyone prepared to look beyond his fancy presentations.

He’s toast.