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The price of corruption is coming home

Every ‘larger than life’ figure has its trademark.

With Konrad Mizzi, it’s redacted contracts and complex webs of offshore companies.

With Joseph Muscat — a smaller than average man with a larger than life ego — it’s arrogance paired with insatiable greed, and with the sort of shamelessness that won’t let the chance of a dirty deal pass him by.

Put the two together, add a dash of Schembri, and you’ve got the Toxic Trio that has now spread beyond Malta to propagate deals in the Balkans, dragging Malta’s name in their spattered wake.

How ironic that a man whose “l-Aqwa Zmien” was nothing but hot air went into the wind farm business.

Muscat’s last foreign visit as Prime Minister, before he was forced to resign in disgrace for his administration’s ties to the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, wasn’t to get his photo taken with the Pope. That was supposed to be an official visit, but the Vatican put an end to what would have been an obvious PR disaster by shunting Malta’s bogan royals into a back room.

No, Muscat’s last official trip was to Montenegro —the tiny Balkan country led by fellow OCCRP Corrupt Person of the Year alumni Milo Dukanovic — where he joined Prime Minister Dusko Markovic to cut the ribbon on a wind farm at the centre of corruption allegations in the country.

This energy investment was of course brokered by Konrad Mizzi, whose track record of abject failure hadn’t yet reached the small Balkan nation when the deal was signed in 2015.

Montenegro touted it as investment by an EU Member State, in the form of Maltese State-owned energy firm Enemalta. But Joseph and Konrad had sold Enemalta to China long before. Whether the Montenegrins knew it or not, they were being sold out, and Malta’s Prime Minister used EU credibility to seal the deal.

The end result is that Montenegrin taxpayers are stuck buying electricity from this wind farm at three times the going rate.

There were so many greedy players involved, with so many sticky hands in the till, that the ‘investment’ nearly fell apart until the glorious Republic of Malta stepped into the ring and sent Mizzi over to work his magic.

‘If you’ve been following the meeeedia, my djeeers,’ then you’ve seen this pattern before.

It’s a variation on the Electrogas template that was supposed to provide cheap energy for Malta, but that really saw you paying double the market rate for LNG from SOCAR for the next 18 years while Azerbaijan’s oligarchs skim off the rest — with probable kickbacks to Lord Tillgate, Sir Hearnville and King Egrant. They’ve gotta feed their families, after all, and no one works for free.

Every deal tainted by Konrad Mizzi’s touch is like a bucket with a gaping hole in the bottom. The more water you pour in, the more drains out — and no one seems to want to know who’s holding the cup that catches it.

But it isn’t just the citizens of Montenegro and Albania who are getting screwed by your former leaders and your fellow citizens. You are finally starting to reap the consequences of the deals that Muscat sowed.

That tends to happen in times of trouble.

You saw how little Labour’s 2013 election promise of “cheap power for everyone” was worth when an anchor took out the interconnector to Sicily. Electrogas was unable to power the island, as promised, and they had to fire up the filthy generator at Marsa that everyone thought had been dismantled long ago.

And you’re seeing how little the Vitals Global Healthcare deal was worth — to the people, at least — now that a global pandemic has unleashed a respiratory apocalypse.

Steward started dumping coronavirus patients off on Mater Dei last week. And they weren’t using their ‘new’ 20-year-old helicopter to take them there, either. They were sending them on the Gozo ferry.

And now Robert Abela tells us his government is throwing up a pre-fab hospital to deal with the growing number of critically ill citizens they expect to overwhelm the system in the next few weeks.

There seems to be a convenient cover-up for the three public hospitals that are sitting this crisis out. The ones Mizzi and Muscat traded away for a song – and for a lot of money funnelled through offshore accounts.

Why aren’t these deals being tabled in parliament — openly, not redacted by the black line of ‘commercial sensitivity’? And why aren’t they being investigated by independent auditors, and cancelled?

Why aren’t Brian Tonna and Karl Cini being investigated? They show up at the heart of every one of these deals, just as surely as Mizzi leads to Schembri and Muscat.

I’ll tell you one thing. I wouldn’t expect decisive action during the reign of Bobby Backdown. His hallmark is to make some grand policy announcement, and then panic in the face of public outrage before quickly backpedaling and proposing something else.

No, as The Shift showed in its recent expose on the tangled web of Electrogas shareholders, too many people are benefitting from these deals on both sides of the political divide. And they’re people you have coffee with or see at social events.

Corruption in Malta has a familiar face, but no one’s willing to confront it, either from fear of retaliation or from some faint lottery ticket hope that there might be something in it for them, however small that crumb might be.

And so your leaders export fraud to Montenegro, using Malta’s now soiled name to strike deals that rob taxpayers in other people’s countries now that they’ve taken all they can from you.

This doesn’t seem to carry much weight back home. After all, if those foreigners made a bad deal and got screwed, it’s nothing to do with you.

But try telling that to your grandfather or mother when they’re gasping out their last breath on a respirator in the pre-fab hospital Bobby Backdown built because the King of Kickbackistan and his friends sold the others.

The price of corruption is coming home.

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The Montenegro connection