Blow the whistle, follow the money

The news that Manchester City will not be playing Champions’ League football for the next two editions is not half as shocking as the news of the treatment of the whistleblower at the source of City’s woes.

Rui Pinto, the young Portuguese hacker behind Football Leaks, faces 90 different counts of hacking, sabotage and fraud in his home country and has been in prison since March 2019. Thanks to Football Leaks, the world got to know that City’s creative accounting was such that Konrad Mizzi’s ‘transformation’ of Air Malta would pale in comparison.

A hero to many in the footballing world, Pinto is reserved the worst treatment possible by the Portuguese authorities.

It is the fate of many a whistleblower nowadays. Corruption and fraud are the crimes of the 21st century – at the root of many of the ills of society. A whistleblower often serves to put investigations on the right track or in the best of scenarios to uncover what was very well hidden.

It took a whistleblower to bring to light the racket that was going on in the Malta Traffic Police. That whistleblower is still anonymous but, according to the latest reports, the pressure is being stepped up within the police force to identify the individual.

Unsurprisingly the government fails to bear responsibility for what happened. The arrests seem to be enough proof that ‘the system is functioning’.

Make no mistake. That is ‘ħalluna niggvernaw’ (let us govern) speak all over again. As the boils and blisters of dirty government keep resurfacing, we are told that the application of a heavy dose of cosmetics is the panacea against all evil. So long as they are left to govern.

How many more police scandals though? How many more Streamcasts? How long can the Electrogas, hospitals and passport-peddling lie withstand the test of time?

The police scandal reminded me of a brilliant series that started two decades back. The Wire told the story of Baltimore from the point of view of law enforcement. At one point, a detective in an episode about ‘how institutions have an effect on individuals’ points out:

“You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the f*** it’s gonna take you.”

That is just the point. Money. The trails of corruption, illegality, and fraud are all created along the lines of the money trail. A whistleblower can point you in the right direction. He or she can point you to the moment where society is being screwed over for a corrupt individual to earn beyond his due. But it will always be along the money trail.

A politician owns companies in Panama. That same politician has his fingers in a multitude of public contracts that reek of unaccountability. Other politically exposed persons (PEPs) dabble interchangeably with financial structures, public property and contracts upon contracts that would not survive the scrutiny of proper, independent auditing.

They end up dealing with the darker side of international money movements. Because it is easy. Because in the meantime they have blindsided any possibility of institutional scrutiny. Because they have captured every institution that matters.

When the institutions are captured. When the politicians and their friends are allowed free reign over the movement of dark money, that is when the whistleblower and the investigative journalist become crucial.

That is also when the institutions themselves stop protecting and serving the innocent and the civil. That is when the words “witch hunt”, “bullying” and harassment become common parlance. That is because, riding on the wave of the dirty money, the politician can afford expensive SLAPP lawsuits and a propaganda machine intended to nullify any opposition.

State of capture

This week former ECHR Judge Giovanni Bonello confirmed that what had been predicted many moons ago by the Advocates for the Rule of Law.

“Malta is experiencing a ‘total collapse of the checks and balances’ systems with the government taking over ‘virtually all other institutions’… The attorney general, the police, the police commissioner and parts of the judiciary are more than suspect. They give the impression that they are in the pockets of the persons they are supposed to keep in check.”

There you have it.

Baltimore 2002, Malta 2020. Do not be mistaken – it is all about the money. The ills of our nation are the fruit of greed, avarice and an insatiable sense of entitlement.

That valley earmarked for destruction in order to widen a country road from Victoria to Marsalforn is not just a victim of crass stupidity by a village bogan elected to the dizzy echelons of high office. It is the direct consequence of a nation fuelled by a blinding, self-destructing, all-devouring greed.

It’s time to blow the whistle, though I fear that we’re already too late.

                           
                               
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