The author of this piece has been on this website before. Here’s the link to his first commentary. And here’s his comment today:
Still a Fool’s Paradise
This morning I awoke with the thought of accepting for one moment that the Prime Minister was a totally honourable man who truly had no intention of being in any way complicit in any abuse of his position from the day he entered Castille on a platform of meritocracy, transparency and accountability.
The first image that came to mind was that of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri being appointed by Muscat in their respective post as a Minister in charge of large public procurement and of a Chief of Staff to be his ultimate person of trust, a second wife.
Next image is Brain Tonna, a few days later, being instructed to set up three offshore companies in total secrecy and to make sure that neither local banks or the tax man get to know about these. Muscat knows nothing of this. He knows their secrets, they know his. But here they are acting behind his back because they know he would not tolerate such blatant corruption. But the chances of being caught are one in ten million.
Now fast forward to a stop interview of Muscat the day that Hearnville Inc is discovered and his reaction in words to the effect that there is nothing wrong in his Minister having a Panamanian offshore company as long as he declares it and yes, he has only days previously prematurely shown Muscat a draft copy of his MP’s mandatory declaration of assets that include this company.
A few days later, Tillgate Inc is coming out of the closet and at another stop interview the suggestion that his own Chief of Staff has also set up a secret offshore company, Muscat turns ugly and threatens the journalist with legal action for suggesting such a wicked thing. So first a denial that there is something wrong with Mizzi’s behaviour actions and then a denial that Schembri would ever think of doing the same.
The funny thing is that after the Panama Papers finally break all over the world, and after days to think about his next step, Muscat contradicts himself again. He sacks Mizzi as his deputy leader but justifies Schembri’s escapade on the excuse that he is ‘a businessman”. Even funnier, Mizzi retains his cabinet portfolio even when the news breaks that they did not declare their foreign NZ trust structures to the tax man. They blame Brain Tonna’s lack of diligence for the legal breaches and for the wrong financial advice. They then undertake to close up the Panama companies but only after carrying out an ‘audit’. Brian Tonna, however, still tops the whitelist for government contracts. He too, is an honorable man.
Damage control. Not quite. Everyone including some of his party are urging Muscat to be rid of this filth. Some speak and write openly. The FIAU head and police commissioner resign in tandem. Muscat acts in a way which is contrary to his image-conscious style of governing. He is willing to ride out the storm and take the flack. Money laundering and kickbacks is not really an issue with the Maltese electorate once the economy is still doing well and getting even hotter.
Then the Egrant allegations break out. He is adamant that he has nothing to do with it, nor does his wife. In a way, it’s a godsend. Because now he can play the victim along with his wife of being targetted by liars and fraudsters from the opposition camp. It also takes the focus away from Mizzi and Schembri’s misbehaviour and his lack of political responsibility in dealing with them. They are told to hide from public show. Now it is time for an early election, so he calls his lawyers to lodge a magisterial inquiry which he knows will result in a game over for his critics. He is confident that no evidence of any personal connection to Egrant will be found. Al Sadr is a close friend of a close friend. The state and party machine attack the whistleblowers and the media incessantly.
He wins a landslide election even before the Egrant inquiry is out. Mizzi and Schembri remain in place. They have been absolved by the high priest himself and by the electorate.
Meanwhile, news breaks of the Karl Cini “17 Black” email back in December 2015 where it is stated that Mizzi and Schembri were trying to open secret bank accounts in which to deposit at least 150,000 USD per month coming from Azerbaijan interests. Muscat refuses to address the news. He refuses to comment other than babbling on about the rule of law and pending inquiries.
Finally, the Egrant’s short version report is out and its circus time again. The chapter is closed. All claim to have been exonerated. Even Mizzi and Schembri are again honest gentlemen who were maligned by the dirty former Leader of the Opposition. Muscat calls upon the latter to resign from public life and office for having falsely accused his administration of corruption. “Take political responsibility,” he says.
Adrian Delia falls for the whole gambit in an attempt to secure his own political credibility. He does not even wait to see the full report nor for the tears to dry on Muscat’s face. Meanwhile, Michelle Muscat claims to have been marked for life without ever a suggestion that none of this would have happened if her husband had rid himself of Mizzi and Schembri two years ago.
Ironically, the last line of the short version of the report states that there may be a hundred suspicions of corruption but that is not proof. It runs parallel to the maxim that is better if a hundred crooks are wrongly set free than to see one innocent man wrongly declared guilty.
I thought that in short, that is exactly what has been happening before our very eyes.