Edward Zammit Lewis is reported to be objecting to Police Superintendent George Cremona being made head of the asset recovery bureau. That’s an office that largely exists as a legal fiction rather than in reality. It is meant to seize objects owned by criminals acquired from the proceeds from their crimes.
Typically, this would be about high value art and furniture, cars, boats, jewellery, that sort of thing. The idea is to take them away from the drug lords and the smugglers and the money launderers and convert their value into compensation to State and victim.
No one seems keen to make this work. The “institution”, such as it is, is a bit of a long-standing joke. Read this piece I wrote last March when Edward Zammit Lewis published megalomaniac plans for a grotesquely opulent warehouse on which nothing else has been heard. I had suggested at the time that the government could dispense with building a warehouse and “recover” Portomaso Tower instead.
Edward Zammit Lewis published with fanfare plans for a new warehouse for the asset recovery agency but appears to be blocking the appointment of its boss. Although the Minister has not confirmed this on the record, Times of Malta is saying the Minister is suggesting that George Cremona has a conflict of interest because his wife is a magistrate.
This had better be wrong. The only conflict of interest that might emerge from that relationship would be if George Cremona’s wife owned assets that he needed to recover because they were proceeds of crime. I doubt Edward Zammit Lewis is suggesting that.
Otherwise, where’s the conflict of interest? If the Minister is using his discretion to overrule an independent selection process, he needs to give objective (and comprehensible) reasons for his decision.
Again, seriously, where’s the conflict? Why shouldn’t the head of an agency that recovers assets from criminals and a magistrate be married to one other?
Of course, in the absence of an explanation we can understand, one cannot but put this strange behaviour into the context of the government’s usual conduct.
The government is not keen on this asset recovery business. Within the ranks of the government itself there is wealth that is inexplicable unless it is made of proceeds of tax evasion, complicity with crime, acceptance of payments from criminals for (professional) services rendered, and bribery. If we had proper law enforcement in this country, there would be some nervous people in our government today.
Even more obviously is the unexplained wealth of party donors who have politicians by their balls but would never tolerate having their own in some law enforcement agency’s grip.
It is therefore eminently possible that George Cremona is not seen by the government as the ideal candidate because they worry they might not be able to control him or, better still, that he may not limit himself to activities beyond which they would need to have to intervene to restrain him.
Consider that in all its years of existence the asset recovery bureau has recovered just about enough assets to organise a beach side barbecue with inexpensive wine.
What if George Cremona, or whoever is appointed to head the bureau, actually gets busy doing their job? It would definitely be the end of l-aqwa żmien.
The only conflict of interest here is Edward Zammit Lewis’s.
In the meantime, you pay for a phantom agency, for futile recruitment processes, likely for the engagement of a soulless puppet to head the bureau, and for the inestimable cost to our community of allowing criminals to own our country just because they stole it.