I almost miss Joseph the Unvanquished in Castille. After resigning in disgrace, he went through a phase of Joseph the Barely Remembered. This Joseph the Whining Cunt of Burmarrad is positively insufferable. He grasps on whatever he imagines to be any opportunity to repair his entirely ruined reputation and screams from the rooftop of his Facebook page like a town crier, the last remaining employee of an abandoned ghost town. The sight of a man flogging the dead donkey that was meant to carry him to the gates of town through crowds shouting Hosanna is too pathetic for words.
Joseph Muscat is back in the news for posting on Facebook something to the effect that the EU’s gas supply agreement with Azerbaijan vindicated his grand vision. ‘Are they going to call von der Leyen corrupt now?,’ Joseph Muscat taunted. ‘They’ is a general reference to his critics but he doesn’t have little old me in mind. This too is another spurt of his hatred for Daphne Caruana Galizia. He’s taunting her, in his mind at least.
I never would have and can’t speak for her. But I can speak for me.
Seeing the EU seal a deal with Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan is not a happy day and that has very little to do with the fact that the moment the deal was announced, the echo of Joseph Muscat’s self-congratulation for something that had nothing to do with him could be heard before he even spoke it.
Azerbaijan is ruled by a fabulously corrupt tyrant, an oligarch in the circle of Vladimir Putin with the added trappings of a state. His family and his closest ministers live as parasites at the expense of the citizens of that country. There are several documented cases of human rights abuses, particularly though not exclusively the wrongful detention of dissidents, critics, and journalists. The Aliyevs have siphoned money they embezzled from their country into their accounts overseas where they travel in the style of grotesque cartoons of mediaeval princes.
Doing a deal with Ilham Aliyev and his government legitimises him. Aliyev uses these arrangements to justify his power and his crimes. If anything, Joseph Muscat’s claim that the EU’s deal with Azerbaijan proves how visionary and how desirable his foresight had been, shows just how this sort of deal polishes, justifies, and legitimises wrongdoing.
The deal with Azerbaijan is a product of realpolitik. We deal with Saudi Arabia in spite of its human rights record. We deal with China in spite of its human rights record. We deal with all sorts of unsavoury regimes, politely paying lip service to “our values”, complaining about human rights abuses in the midst of discussing trade advantages.
With the boycott on Russian resources going on the pressure on the EU to source alternative sources of gas is urgent and critical. We’re in this situation because of decades of failure to have the foresight to mistrust Vladimir Putin and growing ever more dependent on Russian sources. The deal with Azerbaijan is hardly a liberation. Aliyev is in Putin’s sphere of influence and the EU has only managed to find an unhappy way of balancing its commitment to isolate Russia and its desperate need to heat homes come the winter.
If Joseph Muscat were to flatter himself with having had the foresight of going to Baku before the rest of the EU, he’d do well to remember the reason the EU is there now. It’s not anything he foresaw. The EU is in Baku because there’s a war in Ukraine caused by Vladimir Putin. Did Joseph Muscat foresee that? He did fuck. He sold 1,000 Maltese passports, for which read 1,000 privileged access keys to the EU, to oligarchs of Vladimir Putin’s circle, exposing the entire Continent to vulnerabilities that the EU has no clue how to deal with.
Is dealing with China in spite of its human rights record a welcome thing? No, but it can be argued that it is still necessary. The same with buying gas from Azerbaijan. None of this addresses Joseph Muscat’s rhetorical question as to whether the EU’s deal with Azerbaijan is being branded corrupt by the same people who branded his foray in Baku as corrupt.
It wasn’t the fact that Joseph Muscat went to Baku that switched on the suspicion, later much confirmed, that the deal was corrupt. It’s what he did there and how he did it.
He held discussion with Ilham Aliyev outside the diplomatic infrastructure of Malta’s public service travelling unaccompanied by ambassadors or staff. He hid the discussions from public scrutiny going to great lengths to avoid the Maltese media finding out about the discussions.
Following up on those meetings Konrad Mizzi interfered in the procurement of fuel by the state corporation in a manner found irregular by the Auditor General.
The deal to provide energy from the Azerbaijani source that with other partners became Electrogas came with a long series of documented irregular interventions to fix the process. Brian Tonna’s role in drawing up the terms of the deal and then selecting the contractor, while also counting Yorgen Fenech, the consortium’s leader, as one of his clients. That’s while Brian Tonna set up offshore companies for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi and a third person, still unidentified.
Those offshore companies were linked to a Dubai company owned by Yorgen Fenech, the consortium leader. Money was deposited in it that matched illicit payments associated with the nearshore supply ship purchased for the project. The Panama companies were also linked with a company in Dubai owned by a close relative of a negotiator of Shanghai Electric who purchased a portion of the state energy company. For him Brian Tonna also set up off-shore arrangements.
The same infrastructure was set up to facilitate a highly irregular ‘investment’ in a windfarm in Montenegro on which Yorgen Fenech again stood to profit.
As it turned out, and verified by the Auditor General, the energy we buy from Electrogas proved to be more expensive than energy that could have been procured by infrastructure that was already in place before Electrogas came in. We were fucked over while someone walked away with some of the money paid by every household and every business in the country.
Meanwhile two of Ilham Aliyev’s princelings laundered money through Pilatus Bank, a bank licensed in Malta by Joseph Muscat’s government. Keith Schembri was both a client of and a guardian angel for Pilatus Bank. Allegations of payments made from that source in the general direction of Joseph Muscat were never proven but for several reasons doubts about the process of clearing his name persist.
That is why Joseph Muscat’s dealings with Azerbaijan are deemed corrupt. Not because they were with Azerbaijan. But because they were corrupt. Obviously the corrupt nature of the regime of Azerbaijan was the reason Joseph Muscat went there. He credits Joe Debono Grech for the tip-off which is mildly amusing. Joe Debono Grech, like Anġlu Farrugia, became aware of the fabulously corrupt regime of Azerbaijan through the Caviar Diplomacy scandal, the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Council of Europe when MPs expressed favourable opinions of Aliyev’s tyranny in exchange for lavish gifts.
Joseph Muscat also harkens back to the foresight of Dom Mintoff who went to China, that’s the People’s Republic of, before Richard Nixon facing criticism at the time for a foreign policy that proved precocious. Joseph Muscat is sucking up to old time Laburisti, trying to excite them with visions of his reincarnation of Dom Mintoff a strategy that worked well for him when he was trying to get into politics, but surely must have dubious benefits when he’s trying to use it for his own resuscitation.
We don’t have to like the EU’s deal with Azerbaijan. But we’ll call it corrupt if it falls in the same sort of institutional breakdown that allowed Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Yorgen Fenech, and many others to profit from the corruption they indulged in.
Now, Joseph Muscat, get back in that disgraced box of dunces wallowing in the limbo between political power and criminal consequences. Out here you’re insufferable and, frankly, a little embarrassing.