The prime minister’s office and the prime minister’s wife gave Times of Malta statements that manage to sound both categorical and hopelessly vague at the same time. The newspaper offered the Abela couple the opportunity to comment about an internal assessment made by their bankers when Robert Abela ascended the throne. That internal report asked what many people still ask: how are the Abelas so rich?

Bankers cannot be accused of envy. They are required by law to check that the money they hold for their clients comes from legitimate sources and that they’re never caught helping their clients avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

To be fair to the Abelas the internal Bank of Valletta report cited by the newspaper asks questions, but it doesn’t provide definitive answers that the prime couple have been up to no good. The Abelas are still BOV’s customers. Their bankers must presumably be satisfied that there is no call to shut their clients out.

If that’s the case, the Abelas must have provided to their bankers, evidence they have not provided to the public. If the Abelas sent their bankers the answers they sent to Jacob Borg of Times of Malta, they’d have been laughed out of the room. The replies were in that panicked tone: “I’ve done everything right. How dare you imagine otherwise?” That wouldn’t be good enough for a bank. It shouldn’t be good enough for the public, not from their prime minister.

Here’s the problem. The Abelas are not accountable to their bankers. They need only answer their questions about the provenance of their money because if their bankers don’t like them, they’ll have to take their business elsewhere. Whatever questions some lowly officers may have asked, however, it must be remembered that for a bank partly owned by the government and run by a chairman handpicked by the government to fire the prime minister and his wife as their clients would be well-nigh unimaginable. After all the bank knows that if the prime minister doesn’t want the regulators to investigate how they handled him, the prime minister is well placed to arrange for that special kind of selective blindness.

The Abelas are, however, accountable to the public.

They are a pair of lawyers in their early forties. They have no debts. They have properties dotted around the country that are simply worth a lot more than anyone could reasonably bill for providing legal services. So where did it all the money to pay for that come from?

And how is it that we have a prime minister who appears crafty at dodging the rules laid down by the government he runs? How do the Abelas get to draw down their personal expenses from their client accounts? How does their personal business get to operate from a public property with an expired lease? How does the prime minister get to deposit six figure cheques made out to other people? How does the prime minister get to get paid by his employee after hiring him in a government office?

If this is the dodgy stuff we know about, what dodgier stuff we don’t know about might explain the rest of their millions?

The prime minister’s office complained about speculative conclusions being drawn from these questions. Robert Abela has no one to blame but himself for that. The questions are there because Robert and Lydia Abela’s wealth has never been explained. If they don’t explain it, we must necessarily conclude it’s inexplicable. And that’s a problem.

I know it’s a controversial idea, particularly for those to whom it does not matter what their prime minister does if it is the prime minister of their party of choice, but we should not have a tax dodger as prime minister. We should not have a dishonest man in office. If he’s been paid so much money outside the system, he depends on those who have paid him to keep the offending transactions secret. We should not have a prime minister that is so vulnerable to blackmail.

Ultimately, wherever you turn, this is the problem we have. It is not a prime minister with a lot of money. It is a prime minister with a lot to hide, with questions he cannot answer, with debts that do not show up in his spectacular balance sheet but that hold him no less at ransom.

He’s supposed to be the best of us. He’s as dodgy as they come.