Just say no, Joseph

Just because someone offers you something doesn’t mean you have to take it.

I get offered free things all the time. Okay, it’s usually a packet of tissues outside a railway station in Japan, or free hugs in a city park. But my policy in all cases is to shake my head firmly and refuse.

That’s because ‘free’ gifts always come with some sort of obligation.

With the packet of tissues, the implicit obligation is that I will read the advertising printed on the cover. With the hug, it’s that I will reciprocate and hug back. Think how weirded out that person would be if I just stood there with my arms at my sides.

Even when your parents give you something, they at least expect that you’ll feel grateful and thank them.

No one gives away a €20,000 white-gold watch without expecting something in return. When it comes to politics, ‘gifts’ are just another form of kickback.

Politicians have no business accepting gifts from anyone, let alone in secret. Declaring them is just an excuse for receiving that piece of cake ‘in the name of the State’ and eating it, too.

I’m sure we all remember the long, painful fiasco of the tal-lira clock. All of that could have been avoided by a blanket ‘no thanks’ policy. In government, one’s reputation for honesty and fair dealing is worth far more than the short term gain of a clock or bottle of wine.

And that brings us to Malta’s very own Kleptocrat-in-Chief…

Joseph Muscat’s excuse that he left all those gifts from Yorgen Fenech to the State is yet another attempt by the Cuttlefish from Burmarrad to cloud the waters. While he’s distracting you with an inky posterior riposte, he’s diverting your attention from something else.

This has nothing to do with ceremonial presents from one State to another. As far as I know, Fenech doesn’t represent a government, though he sure benefited from this one.

Muscat wants to bog you down in semantics so you’ll ignore his close personal relationship with the man accused of masterminding the political assassination of the journalist who was exposing the rot at the heart of the Kingdom of Kickbackistan.

We know that Yorgen Fenech gave Muscat a limited edition Bvlgari watch worth some €20,000.

We know Fenech attended Muscat’s private birthday party — an event not even Cabinet ministers were invited to — and that he gave the Crime Minister a rare bottle of wine vintage 1974, the year of his birth, worth thousands of euros.

Fenech gave Muscat two more extremely expensive bottles of wine to commemorate the birthday of il-Kink’s twin daughters, too.

The businessman and the Prime Minister reportedly exchanged text messages with great frequency — more often than I text my own wife.

And the alleged mastermind had a similar close relationship with il-Kink’s best friend, Keith Schembri. The former chief of staff was given a white-gold watch for his 40th birthday, a trinket worth some €12,000. Fenech and Schembri vacationed together multiple times, and the 17 Black owner also picked up the tab for Schembri’s US cancer treatments.

That doesn’t look very good, does it? But believe it or not, it gets worse.

Fenech, Schembri and Muscat were expenses-paid guests at Ali Sadr Hasheminejad’s small private wedding in Italy. That’s right, the same Ali Sadr currently under arrest in the US and facing up to 125 years in prison for money laundering and sanctions busting. The owner of Malta’s very own claim to shame, Pilatus Bank.

Are you wondering at this point what was in those two suitcases good ol’ Ali Sadr spirited away the evening after Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote that Egrant was owned by the Muscats, and the declaration was in the Pilatus safe? Those bags contained someone’s dirty laundry, but I don’t think it was Ali Sadr’s.

The connections between Fenech, Muscat and Schembri — and their link to the brutal assassination of Caruana Galizia — are uncomfortably close. And the longer they remain uninvestigated, the worse the situation gets for Malta. No legitimate business or nation wants anything to do with a Mafia State.

And so the political crisis drags on. The King of Kickbackistan clings to power even after resigning. He’s keeping a hectic schedule, too. When he’s not touring small villages basking in the glow of his followers’ adoration and whining about how he “had to shoulder responsibility for the actions and decisions which I did not necessarily make”, he’s taking frantic trips abroad to tie up loose ends, first to Dubai and now to London.

What sort of business is he up to? None of yours.

But you’re probably too busy suffering through constant power outages to notice, as Konrad Mizzi’s Electrogas dreams reveal themselves to be nothing more than very expensive hot air.

If it’s any consolation, your politicians are suffering, too. While you’re trudging to the kitchen over and over to reset that flashing ’12:00′ on your microwave, Muscat is resetting his with a white-gold Bvlgari watch.

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