I have sat back and watched with utter amazement as the revelations surrounding 17 Black have unfolded. For those that have been living in a cave for the last week or so, this is the story in a nutshell.
Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri were caught setting up secret offshore companies that were both set to receive monthly payments of Є150,000 from a third company, based in Dubai called 17 Black.
Set up days after the electoral win in 2013, it has now come to light that 17 Black is owned by Yorgen Fenech, a businessman who is also behind Tumas Group, a partner in the gas power station that was pushed by Mizzi and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the 2013 election.
This therefore implies that Mizzi and Schembri were in cahoots to receive millions in kickbacks, including a large sum from an Azeri bodyguard. This is Money Laundering 101; there is no doubt about it and the evidence is plentiful and available to anyone who wants to see it, black on white.
In any normal country, both Ministers would have either resigned in disgrace, or been ousted immediately with their reputation and career in tatters.
Government ministers are not permitted to set up secret companies, nor are they allowed to receive huge sums of cash from shady entities in third country jurisdictions. But of course, this is not a normal country. In Malta, due process, the rule of law, and democracy are all very much open to interpretation under the current administration.
Mizzi and Schembri still retain their positions, they are still in the government and they have not been reprimanded in any shape or form by their Party, or the Prime Minister. Furthermore, they have not undergone any legal proceedings against them, as would normally happen in the case of money laundering.
The FIAU knew all about the situation, but as usual did nothing; and of course, a smiling, smug Prime Minister declined to so much as to lift a finger to do anything about it.
I just find it staggering beyond all comprehension that Muscat is defending them. I also find it quite difficult to believe that he didn’t know that this was happening, and that he wasn’t receiving a slice of the pie as well.
The troubling question is: With such large amounts of money involved and with such senior figures playing a big part, was this enough to kill the journalist who threatened to reveal it all? Undoubtedly, this is the million-dollar question.
Corruption and scandal have become the norm. Day after day, we are no longer shocked at the gross misbehaviour of these “socialists” in power to the point that even the murder of a journalist has become something easily dismissed, for some.
So what happens when we are no longer shocked by these atrocious crimes? Have we really fallen so far that the majority of the country doesn’t care about the fact that government members are lining their pockets while the electorate struggles to make ends meet?
Do we really not care about the assassination of anti-corruption journalists, the trampling of free speech, the continual erosion of our rights and the erasure of our institutions’ integrity?
How is it that a young republic is so happy to ignore the rise of an autocratic, tin pot dictatorship masquerading as a first-world democracy?
The same people who have been at the centre of scandal after scandal over the last five years have no interest in anything but themselves and their (offshore and secret) bank account balance. Their ‘roadmap’ was to make themselves rich in the short term so they could depart after their term is served, living a life of unbridled luxury while you, the people who voted for them, pick up the pieces of your lives.
I am sure you can feel the anger through my words as you read them, but it makes me sick to my stomach to see how this regime can act so atrociously and with such impunity. They want you to know that they are untouchable and they flaunt their brazen abuse of the most basic tenants of democracy in your faces at every opportunity, and no one does anything about it.
Those who care write articles or leave angry social media comments, but only a handful take to the streets and try to make a real difference.
Malta should hang its head in shame. As corruption eats away at it from the inside out, soon the illusion of being a first-world EU democracy will fail. The world has already noticed the money laundering, unsolved murders, corruption, and the government’s role in all this, but soon the damage will be irreversible.
There is only so long Malta can retain its place in the EU and reap all of the benefits that come with it, without fulfilling their duties and obligations. There is only so long that legitimate businesses will continue to flock to a jurisdiction with a reputation that goes from bad to worse (Malta is increasingly getting the shady ones), and there is only so long that decent and honest Maltese will continue to put up with this charade.