When Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri realised they were caught red handed setting up a company in Panama they did not regret setting up structures to hide their bribes. They regretted having been caught. Of all the servers in all the legal offices in all the countries in the world, Mossack Fonseca’s in downtown Panama City had to be the one journalists managed to get into.

Edward Scicluna is reasoning in the same crooked manner. He’s arguing that had Daphne Caruana Galizia not investigated Pilatus Bank and had others not continued after she was killed, the European Parliament and then the European Banking Agency and now the European Commission and soon, quite possibly, the European Court of Justice, would never have caught our feeble attempts at tickling money laundering.

Perhaps he is right. But that’s neither here nor there.

A financial services dependant jurisdiction must be whiter than white in today’s world, and our government failed to appreciate the needs of today’s world. The terrorist attacks since 2001 forced governments to clamp down on the financing of terrorism. The financial crisis of 2008 forced governments to rethink their tolerance of taxes hidden in havens. The backlash against globalisation that underlines the realities of our time focus minds on the darker side of the global financial system and the role we carved for ourselves in it.

This failure is not purely administrative. Edward Scicluna’s excuse, which no one believes anyway, that he never interfered in the operations of our anti-money laundering agency, is neither here nor there. No doubt the administrators and the law enforcers who failed must assume responsibility.

But yesterday’s indictment from the European Commission is also of a political failure. After dragging its feet for months, the government failed to propose to Parliament legislation that adequately transposes European law. Only Ministers can assume responsibility for this.

The fact that they have time to rectify until the matter is escalated further is not relevant. No one is prepared to excuse these failings as grounded in innocent incompetence or lack of resources.

The government is led by people who are personally motivated to ensure the fight against money laundering is weak. No one is surprised to see Malta formally warned about this. The Pilatus scandal is incidental. Malta has over the last five years presented itself as the freeport within Europe where laws are optional and enforcement selective. We have sold ourselves as people’s way out. We are the place where anything goes as long as the right people are kept happy and on side.

Edward Scicluna may not have meant it this way — and this is what he hopes to tell us. The man is barely there at all. He is aloof, detached from the grind and the realities of his office. He does not understand that his actions and, equally, his failure to act, have consequences that, unlike an academic writing away for a journal, he is personally and directly responsible for.

This is not about the pleasure of seeing him resign. This is not about his ‘opponents’ winning a political point at his expense. This is about telling the world that in this country we have at least a basic understanding of accountability.

The European Commission ‘heard’ – does it matter now, how? — that Malta was unacceptably tolerant of money laundering. It checked and found this to be the case. 

That’s bad. It’s bad because we now have an objective opinion of a body empowered to prosecute the government in front of a supra-national court that confirms what we’ve known for some time and the government never tired of denying: we have not met and are not meeting minimum standards of security and propriety in the provision of financial services.

I meet many practitioners who swear to me they have never handled a dirty centime. And that may very well be true. But when we fail to write proper laws and when we fail to enforce indiscriminately the ones we do have, we cannot ask the world to judge us by the goodwill of the better people among us.

In the absence of rules and their enforcement, we can only be judged by our lowest common denominators.

Without proper rules and proper enforcement, we are all Pilatus Bank.

The fact that Keith Schembri openly banks there doesn’t help. Joseph Muscat denies his family received money from there but does his mother even believe him anymore?

When our prime minister and his most trusted aide bank at Pilatus Bank, the world is entitled to see us all as Pilatus Bank. We tarnish ourselves by the same brush.

Edward Scicluna will not defend himself by saying this was, after all, a mess his boss made, and he should not be blamed for it. Not publicly anyway. Even if he did have the courage and self-respect to make that argument, he’d need to make it to his party, and Edward Scicluna knows no bishop has ever led a successful coup against his god.

Which leaves him two options. To apportion responsibility, carry his share and leave. Or to stay where he is and rue the day the European Commission found out he had not lived up to his basic responsibility to ensure that it does not matter if the prime minister is doing it, money laundering must be stopped.