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Govt vows to push on with anti-corruption Bill, urges GSD to ‘put up or shut up’

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The Gibraltar Government said on Wednesday it would push on with legislation to create an Ant-Corruption Authority, despite the GSD’s “attempts to mislead” the public on this issue.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo also called on Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition, to “stop playing games” on this issue and “put up or shut up”.

“If anyone has any information about corruption or bribery they should report that matter to the Royal Gibraltar Police who have full powers under our existing legislation to investigate any such matters already,” Mr Picardo said.

“I encourage anyone who has such information arising under any administration to do so and in particular, I call on Mr Azopardi as leader of the GSD to stop playing games and trying to sling mud for his own party political purposes and to put up or shut up and report any allegations of corruption he considers have the necessary substance to the RGP for investigation immediately.”

“If he doesn't, he will be seen to be just engaging in idle gossip and rumour and gutter politics of the worst sort - all the things he says he does not do but is all too often caught out doing.”

No.6 Convent Place was reacting after the GSD said draft legislation published by the Government was “flawed and half-hearted”, accusing the Chief Minister of “talking big” while blocking significant reform to tackle waste, abuse and corruption.

In a hard-hitting statement, Mr Azopardi said there was a “clear need” for anti-corruption measures, citing “rampant cronyism, opaqueness, financial abuse and issues of serious democratic deficit”.

Prior to this latest exchange, Mr Picardo had urged the GSD to engage with the Government to help shape the legislation in the areas where it believed it could be improved, something the GSD described as “a hollow invite”.

The Chief Minister said he was “disappointed” by the GSD’s “unconstructive and negative” stance on the legislative proposal.

And he accused Mr Azopardi too of “at best being economical with the truth or outrageously misleading” on his past views on the creation of an Anti-Corruption Authority, in a bid to “pretend to be tough when he is universally seen as weak”.

Earlier in the row, the Government had reminded Mr Azopardi he had not seen the need for an Anti-Corruption Authority when the GSLP/Liberals first proposed it in 2011.

The GSD Leader acknowledged this but said the “simple answer” was he did not think it necessary after 16 years of GSD government.

But on Wednesday, Mr Picardo referred to media coverage in 2011 that suggested the real reason was because Mr Azopardi believed the Crimes Act already provided for corruption investigations, and that to set one up would send the wrong signals to international investors.

The Chief Minister quoted from media coverage in which the PDP, the party that Mr Azopardi led at the time, described the proposal as “a half-baked idea to manoeuvre out of the point already made that the English Bribery provisions had in fact been enacted in Gibraltar in the recent Crimes legislation”.

At the time, Mr Azopardi had said the plan would "serve only to create alarmist headlines which will undermine the attraction of inward investment or finance centre business by creating the impression that there must be rampant corruption in Gibraltar if there is a need for a special Anti-Corruption Authority."

The creation of such an authority could “undermine the economy and say to people worldwide that Gibraltar is not a safe place to do business because there is systemic fraud, bribery and corruption”, Mr Azopardi had said too.

The GSD had shared a similar position at the time, the government noted.

"Mr Azopardi is therefore now demonstrably seeking to hide his embarrassment by misleading the public when he says the complete opposite and suggests that he was only saying an Anti-Corruption Authority was not necessary in 2011 because it had been the GSD who had been in power for 16 years,” Mr Picardo said.

"In fact, at the time, as leader of the PDP, Keith Azopardi was making the same and worse accusations against the GSD as he is making against the GSLP Liberals now.”

"It is clear that Keith Azopardi pretends to be a constructive politician but he is not.”

“Every time we invite him to cooperate on something he decides instead to attack and call me names because he has no arguments beyond insults and he obviously thinks a tough headline will be politically more useful to him, given how weak everyone perceives him to be.”

“He does that instead of working with the GSLP Liberal Government to deliver a better product to the public which is what we are all elected to do and what our people expect from us - more constructive cooperation between elected politicians and less unproductive insults.”

"Usefully, however, after his latest press release, the public can see that Keith Azopardi will outrageously and blatantly try to mislead them when he thinks it is convenient to him.”

"That will mean that the public will understand that apart from Keith Azopardi being weak they cannot trust him to tell them the truth even when documentary evidence exists to prove be is lying.”

“Failing to build trust with the electorate is fatal to Mr Azopardi in the last throes of his political career.”

"We in the GSLP Liberal Government will nonetheless continue to do things properly and constructively as we continue with the Parliamentary progress of our law to create the Anti-Corruption Authority.”

“The GSD have insisted before that we should not proceed, but we will deliver this legislation and deliver an Anti-Corruption Authority, despite their nervousness and Mr Azopardi's attempts to mislead the public on this issue.”

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