The Malta Blockchain summit launches today – and no, this is not a paid PR piece, but one that points out that it comes hot on the heels of the Delta Summit last month where an unsavoury character blacklisted by the World Bank (twice) made another appearance and again commanded the attention of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Shiv Shankaran Nair, also known as Shiv Nair, has not been heard of since Daphne Caruana Galizia exposed his ties to Muscat as his consultant and, despite the Prime Minister’s repeated denials at the time, it seems a deal has once again been forged; this time under the Blockchain Island umbrella.
No matter how innovative an idea is, and no matter how many millions are spent on reputation laundering with two lavish summits, the dirt seems to stick.
At the fringes of the Delta Summit last month, a private meeting was organised between a foreign minister of a small island nation and the Maltese Prime Minister together with Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri.
That foreign minister was Ralph Regenvanu of Vanuatu, a small Pacific Ocean island nation with an image problem and an overload of Chinese investment that is beginning to worry its neighbours. His emissary was Shiv Nair, now acting as Vanuatu’s “special advisor” with a particular focus on the Commonwealth and, more recently, cryptocurrency and blockchain.
He tweeted his presence at the Delta Summit with Vanuatu’s foreign minister, saying “Malta Vanuatu to lead Commonwealth of Blockchain Islands”.
Malta will now be assisting Vanuatu with drafting cryptocurrency and blockchain laws as well as it offering technical assistance, according to media reports in Vanuatu. Shiv Nair boasts on his LinkedIn page that he is, in association with Malta, initiating the Commonwealth Blockchain Group.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything about Shiv Nair, the reclusive Malta Enterprise and government consultant with two lifetime bans for corrupt practices from the World Bank and a long history of acting as a political advisor to countries such as Qatar, Georgia, Nigeria, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Ecuador.
Proudly selling himself by quoting a reader’s comment on The Economist referring to him as “China’s secret weapon in Africa”, the last we heard about Shiv Nair in Malta was Muscat being caught out in multiple lies about him in October 2013.
Back then, the matter related to whether or not Shiv Nair was actually engaged at all as a consultant. Despite receiving a letter of engagement from Malta Enterprise and accompanying Konrad Mizzi to Qatar on a high-level meeting about LNG supplies, Muscat had denied knowing him and he had denied his engagement.
Yet it seems Shiv Nair’s involvement with Malta did not quite end there.
In a post on social media in 2014, Shiv Nair said that “[as energy advisor] to the government of Malta, he was in charge of fast tracking the fuel purchase contract between Malta and Qatar and also triggering main Asian purchases into Malta.”
He goes on to state that Muscat had “refused to be pressured” to terminate Nair’s engagement after the links were exposed and following Muscat’s denials.
Shiv Nair’s public profile on a self-publishing outlet also lists the Maltese government among his list of engagements as well as, since November 2017, a “cryptocurrency & blockchain investor”.
Despite his boasting of “triggering main Asian purchases into Malta” little is known about his actual role or indeed what became of the Qatar fuel purchase contract given that purportedly this was replaced by the infamous Socar deal.
Shiv Nair’s profile also describes him as having “played an important behind the scenes role, that led to Malta being awarded the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) [in 2015]”. Again little is known about that.
What is certain is that Shiv Nair has multiple contacts, particularly in China, and a knack of facilitating strategic infrastructural investments spreading Chinese influence and working towards China’s “one belt one road” initiative.
Since 2013, Shiv Nair has worked in various roles with the Government of Vanuatu, a Commonweath micro-state that while describing China as its “best friend” is, according to other countries, increasingly falling subject to China’s “debt trap diplomacy”.
The similarities between Vanuatu and Malta go beyond Shiv Nair and the Commonwealth.
It was undoubtedly not serendipity that brought Vanuatu’s foreign minister to Malta with Shiv Nair as his emissary in early October 2018 to attend the Delta Summit, meet Muscat and decide that Malta should assist Vanuatu in introducing a regulatory framework modeled on that being adopted by Malta.