I had published that report around 5pm of 5 June 2018 and then Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia confronted Joseph Muscat about it immediately in Parliament. Before 7pm Joseph Muscat had already replied “categorically denying” what I reported.

I had asked that time how it was that Joseph Muscat felt comfortable denying categorically something about his chief of staff’s personal bank accounts? He could have said that he had asked Keith Schembri if it was true and that he preferred to believe him over believing me unless I coughed up the evidence to back up my claim. But Joseph Muscat didn’t say that. Nor did he get his chief of staff to make the denial himself.

Instead, Joseph Muscat declared then that what I wrote about Keith Schembri’s personal finances was false.

Indeed, unlike the impression that yesterday’s PAC meeting might have left on anyone watching, Keith Schembri did not deny or contradict my reporting. It’s possible I missed it, but I have absolutely no recollection of Keith Schembri ever saying it wasn’t true that he received over $400,000 within 5 weeks of his covert trip to Azerbaijan. Nor do I remember him even attempting to explain where the sudden surge, if it existed, in his wealth came from.

Anyway, the point today isn’t about whether Keith Schembri came into the Dosh back in the day, it’s about whether Muscat’s gaslighting at the PAC raises any eyebrows.

Yesterday, Joseph Muscat told the PAC that “had there been real suspicions in the allegations (that I made about Keith Schembri), then Schembri would have been charged.” That’s such a complete non sequitur, isn’t it?

I published something in June 2018. Joseph Muscat denied it then, though Joseph Muscat could not really have been able to be sure about what he was saying. And the police did bugger all at the time, as far as we know, which will surprise no one.

That series of statements – “I published. Muscat denied. Nothing happened.” – could be declared as “business as usual” by dozens of journalists, starting with Daphne Caruana Galizia had she been allowed to live long enough, about dozens of illegalities allegedly committed by Muscat and his cronies. It’s just the way things are.

Does the fact that Keith Schembri was not charged with something related to what I published necessarily mean there was no reason to suspect he did something illegal? In this country, where Keith Schembri was not charged after we learnt about the money Brian Tonna deposited into his accounts Pilatus Bank accounts? In this country, where Keith Schembri was not charged after we found that he had a Panama company set up while in office and declared he’d be receiving millions from companies owned by Yorgen Fenech and Cheng Chen while serving as prime minister’s chief of staff? In this country, where Keith Schembri was not charged after we learnt he wrote and had instructions delivered to Yorgen Fenech while under arrest to tell him how he should pin the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia on Chris Cardona?

The fact Keith Schembri was not investigated, let alone charged, for potentially inexplicable income in January 2015 does not arise out of the quality of suspicions I may have raised with my reporting. It’s purely, to my mind, a result of the gross impunity Joseph Muscat and his present and former cronies enjoyed and continue to enjoy.

They convinced the public that if the police bosses they appointed, and those bent elements within the force that they continue to control, do not arrest them then, as surely as night follows day, they can only be deemed to have done nothing wrong. That, ladies and gentlemen, is state capture.

Let me use Joseph Muscat’s logic. Perhaps if my reporting has been quite as false as Joseph Muscat declared it to be at the time, back in 2018, from the comfort of the privilege that came with his seat in Parliament, then Keith Schembri could have, should have sued me for besmirching his lily-white reputation. After all, my reporting was asserting that Keith Schembri may have profited unlawfully from Malta’s international relations, essentially betraying the country, and selling its interests to the dictatorial regime of Azerbaijan. How does anyone let a falsehood like that go unreplied?

My memory may prove inaccurate on the question as to whether Keith Schembri ever denied what I wrote about him. But if he ever sued me about that story, I’d remember. He didn’t.

So, here’s a little tu quoque for Joseph Muscat. If there was no reason to suspect Keith Schembri after what I wrote, why didn’t Schembri sue?  The logic, such as it is, is on a par with Muscat’s he wasn’t prosecuted, so he must have been innocent.

And here’s another pro memoria for Joseph Muscat. In the dying hours of his government, when he was still trying to survive despite Keith Schembri being arrested (about other things), not to mention the revelations Yorgen Fenech was threatening to make, Joseph Muscat was asked if he felt betrayed by Keith Schembri. Joseph Muscat said he did feel betrayed. It bears repetition: Joseph Muscat said he felt Keith Schembri betrayed him. So, here’s a supplementary question for Joseph Muscat to the line of questioning Darren Carabott was pursuing here.

Is Joseph Muscat sticking to the categorical denial he made on 5 June 2018 that Keith Schembri received over $400,000, 5 weeks after he came back from Baku over Christmas 2014? Is that why yesterday he fudged his answer by saying that my reporting cannot have been correct since Keith Schembri was “never charged”? He can’t help but wonder now if Keith Schembri was lying. My bet is he knows he should have been wondering then, too.