RTV Slovenia: Malta, The dark face of economic growth

2019-03-04T12:06:28+01:00Mon, 4th Mar '19, 12:06|0 Comments

Slovenian National TV ran this in-depth feature by senior report Janko Petrovec on Malta over the weekend. Click here to link to the page showing the film. 

The interviews in the feature are in English. An English translation of the script follows.

Slovenian journalist Janko Petrovec at the Great Siege memorial in Valletta

280219 Globus: »Malta – The Dark Face of the Economic Growth«



There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 16TH October 2017 at 2:35 pm.

At 2:58 pm she died when a carbomb went off.

OFF CORINNE VELLA, sister of the late Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

She should never have died. She should never have had to be doing what she was doing. What happened was: the institutions failed to do their job. She should have been protected and she wasn’t.


TV Slovenija, News Programme at 1 pm, 17th Oct. 2017


Daphne Caruana Galizia died yesterday as a bomb planted in her car went off. It went off just minutes after the journalist left her home. The 53-year-old Daphne Caruana Galizia was a severe critic of the Maltese Prime Minister. She blamed him that he was receiving money from the Azerbaijani president on accounts opened in tax havens. She linked him with the Panama Papers affair.


Malta. The tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean with almost half a million inhabitants. Amongst those, the fundamental name is Daphne Caruana Galizia. Our programme would be a postcard of a holiday island, were it not for the questions that she has put forward. The late journalist launched numerous affairs about money laundering in Malta and corruption in the island’s politics. She left brave people behind: the tension within them is so dense that you could cut it with a knife. We meet Michael Briguglio in the tranquillity of the university campus. Manuel Delia tells us to come to a remote place on the margins of the urban area. Corinne Vella defines the place of encounter only minutes before it. Matthew Caruana Galizia invites us to the privacy of the family garden which his mother had planted.

MATTHEW CARUANA GALIZIA, son of the late journalist

The very moment that the bomb went off, I knew that we were going to be fighting for a long long time. I knew that everything was going to be a fight. And that’s exactly how it has turned out to be.


People seemed quite content to say: Well, Daphne is taking care of it. So that made her the only person who could be a target. What has changed now is that people realize their mistake. So there are people who are more active and more outspoken. But before then (=her death), not many people would speak; they preferred to give Daphne information, and tell her: Don’t mention my name.

Prof. dr. MICHAEL BRIGUGLIO, opposition politician and sociologist, University of Malta

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a very polari… was a polarizing figure: people who really loved her, people who followed her, but there are also people who did not like her style. She didn’t only write about corruption, she also went into the personal lives of politicians.


The government is not only attempting to cover up the causes of the murder, but also all of her investigations leading up to it. It wants the public and the international community to forget what my mother revealed, or not to notice it at all.


45 people took up the stories she was working on. (It) became more difficult to fight (so many international journalists). It showed the importance of the scale of her work – that she was not investigating only petty politics in a small Mediterranean island. She was on the trail of very very important information. (She was) really touching on the transnational crime and how it intersects with politics. And how it can poison not just the Maltese society but the whole of Europe. So: we are talking about an international financial system that supports crime.


There’s something very wrong about the lack of an independent inquiry. And the reason is, that here clear suspects are in control of the police investigations.


The objective of the public inquiry is, to work out whether my mother’s murder could have been prevented by the State.


If we don’t have an independent inquiry that is looking – independently of any interests – not only at who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, but at how the State is handling that – and if the State did everything it could do to prevent it from happening – whether anyone in the State, in the Government, in the Security Services knew she was going to be killed? And let it happen?


Because … Even if the Executive did not commission my mother’s assassination, there is a good probability that it, probably, willed it to happen.


And those questions are important because: well, I’m a journalist and (there) are other journalists in this country that are doing the work that Daphne Caruana Galizia was doing. Are we going to live in fear that we are next?


The Maltese government does not allow the afore-mentioned inquiry. On the other hand, there is an investigation going on in Valletta, regarding three supposed killers of the journalist. They were arrested in December 2017. Caruana Galizia had never written about them, they did not have a clear motive to kill her. The Council of Europe believes that the Maltese investigation is not thorough enough; the fundamental question is not Who killed her, but Who ordered that she should be killed.


Now, this inquest is completely closed. Witnesses are heard behind closed doors, the proceedings of the inquest are completely closed, and even the report which will be drawn out by the magistrate will be private and cannot be published.


The Prime Minister he has absolutely nothing to fear about the truth. There’s nothing an inquiry can reveal that he should be afraid of as a democratic Prime Minister. If he wants to stall on a public inquiry, only he knows what he is afraid of.


My mother didn’t just become a journalist overnight. We know no other reality as a family.

So… fighting for our rights to express ourselves – fighting for rights, for justice – this is something that we’ve done all our lives. Except that: before we did it a little more quietly, and now we have no other choice – because this has thrown us into the spotlight.


CORRUPTION (and the Delimara Power Plant case)


Last year, according to Transparency International, Malta receded on the scale of the perception of corruption, the quality of life and the functoning of democracy. This is also proven by the Panama Papers which don’t lack the Maltese names that Daphne Caruana Galizia had boldly written about. An eloquent example is the Delimara Power Plant construction case.

SIMON BUSUTTIL, the former leader of the opposition Nationalist Party

Panama Papers exposed two members of Cabinet – the top minister responsible for this power station and the Prime Minister’s very own Chief-Of-Staff – caught with secret companies in Panama opened whilst in public office to receive 150 thousand euro every month. That’s 5000 euro every day in their account. And, subsequently, you also ought to know from whom this money is coming. Well, guess what? It’s coming from one of the owners of the new power station. 

No investigations have been conducted in what I’ve just described as the most important corruption scandal in the history of this country. And these people are still in office.


Konrad Mizzi is now Minister of Tourism. Keith Schembri is still the Prime Minister’s Chief-Of-Staff. Joseph Muscat is supported by more than 50 per cent of the electorate.


In reality, we (=the people of Malta) have adopted this knowledge: that because the government enjoys the majority’s support, then any crimes they may be involved in – they’re cleaned and forgiven.


The same corruption issue which angered many people including myself, is not the main issue for certain parts of the electorate, as long as it doesn’t hit them directly.

ALEXANDER HILI, the founder of the young political activists’ group Awturi 

There is apathy in terms of certain issues. You do NOT touch certain issues. it’s… You are told – I was told from a very young age: Listen, keep your head down, ignore these things.

GODFREY LEONE GANADO, retired senior auditor and independent journalist

Money laundering, I would say, is rampant. The institutions are being completely taken over by the government, by the Labour Party, by the Prime Minister. When I say »taken over«: there is no doubt that there is interference in all the institutions.


We wanted to hear the government’s positions, so we contacted the Prime Minister’s press representative, and also the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Sustainable Development and Environment, and Parliamentary Secretariat For European Funds and Social Dialogue. Nobody replied to our requests except the last one, from which we have got an »informal chat« invitation from Secretary’s coordinator. We refused it politely.

LAWRENCE GONZI, the former Prime Minister of Malta (2004-13)

Where are we today? Where has this morality (in politics) gone? My answer to that is: it’s under a crisis. It’s being bombarded by this populist approach.




Right: the populist approach. That’s why the majority of the Maltese don’t see the corruption. Better still: they don’t want to see it.  Why should they! Malta is the fastest growing economy in the European Union, and the percentage of the unemployed is extremely low. Bruxelles’ forecasts that Malta’s GDP growth should be 5,2 % only this year. And one of the reasons for this is the possibility that rich people from abroad can obtain the country’s citizenship.

What are the criteria? The applicant must invest 650 000 euro into the National Development and Social Fund, 150 000 into Maltese Government Bonds, 350 000 into real estate or at least 16 000 annually into a property lease.

JONATHAN CARDONA, the CEO of the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency

What my unit does, is conducting the due diligence on these families – to ensure a number of factors: the security risk, the money laundering. We check the source of funds, the source of wealth, who they are, that they are not involved in any criminal activity … We minimize the risks.


The EU has warned Malta it should control the applicants more thoroughly. However, the Agency people assure us that they collaborate with the Europol and the Interpol, and that they decline about a fifth of the applicants.


The main reason would be: either we don’t have clarity on how the person made his wealth, 

 (or) sometimes we reject even if the person per se is not involved, but he is very closely linked or affiliated with potentially corrupt individuals. Then we reject as well.


Malta has introduced »the sale of the golden passports« in 2014 when the government was taken over by the labourist Joseph Muscat. Since then, citizenship was granted to some 1000 families. Only last year, the state earned 205 million euro with the passports – which is 1,6 % of the GDP.


I believe that selling one’s citizenship is selling one’s identity. And that is a step too far.


They go in the rest of the world, in the rest of Europe saying that they are Maltese.

They do that because saying where they’re really from is a problem for them. They are hiding from something, they are hiding their nationality sometimes and their identity for some reason. And we (=the Maltese people) are associating ourselves with those reasons.


The critics agree that considering the existent economic growth, the country should not risk by selling its passports. They fear that the verification procedures might not be enough to definitely prevent the infiltration of terrorists. 

– But we have to understand Malta: if we exclude the sun and the sea, the overpopulated island has no natural resources.



JEAN PAUL FABRI, business analyst and Managing Director at the ARQ Group

So the only way to attract business (to Malta) was through using its jurisdiction properly. Malta is very very good at identifying niche opportunities, niche markets. And then we’re very fast to legislate.


However, the service industry that Malta takes its bets on, is vulnerable. The gambling sector, for example. Malta has four casinos, but that’s nothing yet. More than 280 online gambling companies are based in the offices across the island, and those contribute 12 per cent to the national GDP.

HEATHCLIFF FARRUGGIA, CEO of the Malta Gaming Company Authority

The service industry in an online world is ideal for us. Why? Because it’s not that we need huge space (for it) – not like the manufacturing where you need huge, huge areas to build the machines and everything; obviously, we do not have space for that.


The controlling authority claims that it is taking care of a safe and controlled environment for the online gamblers.


If players want to gamble, they will always find a way to gamble. So rather than opposing, rather than putting barriers, we say: Well, let’s regulate. Let’s regulate properly, so we know exactly what’s happening. Because if you do not regulate properly, people will still gamble but they will do it illegally.


The foreign investors represent the majority of the online sector’s investments, and these – considering the possible deductions – can pay as little as 5 per cent of the income tax. That’s a magnet for the suspicious capital holders, as it is regularly proven by the Italian arrests of the mobsters linked to the gambling companies with a Malta licence.


If we start declining on the gaming sector, and that would mean a direct result of the bad reputation that Malta is getting with money laundering, particularly through these gaming companies – then it’s going to be a disaster.


The next step would be the legal framework for the introduction of the blockchain technologies and the cryptocurrencies – to be introduced into the online gambling business also. The analysts are optimistic.


Cryptocurrencies – or virtual currencies – are a layer on top of the blockchain. And it is through the adoption of blockchain that Malta can really develop into a blockchain island – as the vision is.




The online gambling business employs some 7000 foreigners with high income. That contributes to the rise in real estate prices and rents in Malta. Tourism is the most important industry in the country, and it is on the rise as well – which, in consequence, encourages the real estate boom even more.


And also – following the introduction of divorce and separation – then you also have an increased number (=of divorced people looking for extra flats) which impacted on that.


The number of the inhabitants of Malta has risen by 15 per cent in the last decade: predominantly because of the need for the immigrant workforce. The value of the real estate has gone up by 17 per cent in the last year alone. This is good for the real estate owners and bad for everybody else.


I think we are overbuilding. We are investing too much in property.And there is no way that the upcoming generation can start owning property because it’s too expensive.


The environment is damaged. There is a lower standard of life because everyone is living in a cramped location. And this is happening and people are losing that sense of belonging somewhere, and they are blaming it on migration, they are blaming it on the European Union – everyone is trying to find a way to blame it on someone else. But the reality is: we should blame it on ourselves, ’cause we don’t act as one. Everyone thinks for themselves.




Despite everything that has been said, Malta can be stunningly beautiful. The medieval and baroque palaces set within the majestic defensive walls left here by the knights hospitallers tell the story of the past strategic importance of the island. Take Mdina, for example, the old capital of the country: it is the only place in Malta where we could rest our ears from the omnipresent noise.




Experts on Malta usually describe this island nation between Sicily and Libya with words like »most« and »least«. It is the smallest EU nation that usually expresses the highest EU support. The Maltese speak more languages than other Europeans,  and they are on average the most obese EU nation – but we should not speak about this today. We should, however, speak about the African migrants: Malta has accepted more migrants per capita than any other nation.

LAWRENCE GONZI, the former Prime Minister of Malta (2004-13)

Since 2001/2, the numbers grew and grew and grew. During my time in office, it was a crisis situation. (Then,) during the period when Renzi was the prime minister in Italy the numbers in Malta decreased. They did not disappear completely but they went down dramatically. 


About 20 000 migrants who came across from Libya have disembarked in Malta in the last decade and a half. About a fourth of these, maybe a third, have stayed in the country. And our interview-partners confirm that there is no lack of work for them.

JULIAN CARUANA, a psychologist in the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta

A number of people are employed without a working permit, which is paid below the minimum wage, which work in very dangerous conditions. Especially in construction. And we had even a number of deaths recently.


This was… must have been 2004, late 2004 beginning of 2005, I had a very good meeting with President Bush at the time – and part of the package that we had agreed with the president directly was, for the USA to accept a number of migrants, refugees.

And my argument has always been – even around the European Union table: it’s unacceptable that we find more cooperation and understanding from the USA and not from my colleagues, sitting around the table, who (should) understand that, at the end of the day, Malta is at the front line.



Close to Valletta, we find the Lifeline NGO ship. Last summer, it has been confiscated by the authorities, just after the 230 migrants rescued by the Lifeline crew on the open sea had been disembarked. Allegedly it’s status must be put in order.

MARC TILLEY, the PR officer of the NGO Mission Lifeline

Why did it take seven months? It really doesn’t… The magistrate was very ??? (sure?) at the beginning: he said that he felt he could put together with the correct evidence a judgement within two weeks. However what they are invested in, is keeping this boat here for as long as possible so it is not doing its job, it’s not rescuing people and not disembarking in Malta.


Obviously, the most visible is the boat arrival. But if you had to look at statistics over the past three years: that wasn’t the main form of asylum seekers actually arriving to Malta. Most asylum seekers arrived in a regular manner with some kind of visa. And then they applied for asylum once they were in Malta.


This role of NGO’s and the voluntary sector … Probably it is the result of a failure of the official authorities.




Malta measures only 316 square kilometres, but its population is almost half a million people. It is the most densely populated European Union country. One more record: every 10 people there are more than 6 cars. The consequence? Malta is one of the most polluted countries in Europe.

STEVE ZAMMIT LUPI, Bicycle Advocacy Group

Despite a lot of work being done to improve the road infrastructure, it (=the government) is focusing mainly on cars. And, unfortunately, I have to say that – where there is some sort of very basic bicycle infrastructure, it’s either unsafe – unconnected, so you cannot get to it in an efficient way – and it is very dangerous, too.

Prof. dr. MARIA ATTARD, specialist for the urban geography, University of Malta

We do have a very strong love affair with the car. With over 80 % of the trips being carried out by car, something like 11 % being carried out by bus, and – when it comes to walking and cycling, over the years that we’ve been looking at travel behaviour – they have become negligible.


One of the reasons the Labourists won the last elections, was the promise that the government would invest 700 million euro into new roads.


The government is only looking at the short term idea of how to move this amount of cars without getting stuck in the traffic – rather than seeing a wider picture, where you can have people that are driving their cars, people that are cycling, people that are walking and using the public transport.


We were not able to reduce our emissions from the transport sector, and instead, we’ve increased it. So, it is obvious that we are missing our targets now; and transport – or the air pollution coming from transport – is a major concern.


This is not only about the record-setting level of the fine particles in the Maltese air. Malta recycles less than 10 per cent of its waste: four-fifths of it is still deposed in the landfills. The island does not lack wild waste dumps, either. To one of them, we are taken by the Maltese environmentalist of Swedish origin.

CAMILLA APPELGREN, the Malta Clean Up movement

So, this is Qalet Marku. It is one of the… COULD be one of the most beautiful peninsulas in Malta. It’s protected. – There are no lights, of course. If you want to dump your waste – this is a perfect area to go to, unfortunately.

The other issue is that people still don’t trust the waste management. There has been a myth going on that nothing is recycled. And that stays with people until you educate them that it’s otherwise – so you need to be very transparent and show them how it’s done.


It is true, though, that the city streets are clean, even though we do not spot any waste containers. Early in the morning, bags full of waste appear in front of the home entrances. They disappear by the mid-morning.




The Maltese garbage workers are thorough, and we have another proof for that. 

There is a monument in the Republic Street in Valletta, right opposite the national courts building. It commemorates the »Great Siege« in the middle of the 16th century, when the Maltese and the Knights Hospitaller defended the island from the five times stronger Ottoman navy. In memory of the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, people light their candles here now. The authorities clean them away in no time.


You know, I didn’t just lose a sister, I also lost the country I thought a lived in. And my sister’s case is still open – and apart from the fact that she was killed, we also have to push back against misinformation and disinformation campaigns led by people within the government, even from the Prime Minister’s office. How can you rest when that sort of thing is happening? When there’s no justice?