We each respond to a raging pandemic in our own way.
Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, used COVID-19 as an excuse to grab dictatorial powers. Donald Trump is playing ‘pin the blame on anyone but me’. And Keith Schembri is hiding in Mellieħa trying to launder his reputation with a fake newspaper.
But he didn’t just conjure any newspaper out of very thin air. No, this is a fake version of Malta Today complete with phoney logo and footer (no one would believe him if it were The Shift).
The cleverly named ‘malta-today.com‘ only has six stories so far, and they didn’t put very much effort into them. But why should they? The cloned version only has to mimic the real Malta Today at a glance.
The point of the site is an overly-defensive victim’s tale called, ‘How Keith Shembri [sic] Got Entangled In The Murder Of The Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia Without Having A Hand In It‘.
As a piece of writing, it is an embarrassment. In terms of believability, it reads like the letter exhibited at that late-night Cabinet meeting where ministers were told of a plot to frame Chris Cardona.
If you think back to anything bad you ever got caught for in primary school, you can probably relate to it. “I was trying to help an old lady across the road when the rock slipped from my hand and shattered your window… And it was all Chris’s fault!”
Most of us grew out of such nonsense when we developed a sense of personal responsibility and a sense of shame.
I suppose we should have expected something like this from the man who once called Saviour Balzan at midnight over Joseph Muscat’s sticky situation. These days, even the owner of the real Malta Today is no longer taking his calls.
But don’t worry. Every good businessman knows there’s always a solution. It just takes a little lateral thinking.
Can’t convince anyone to open a bank account for you — not even in the world’s dodgiest jurisdictions? No problem. Just use your power to grant a licence and open a bank instead.
Can’t get anyone to print your vapid lies? No problem. Just grab a fistful of crayons and ‘WordPress for Beginners’ and throw together your own news outlet.
Now, you’re probably wondering why someone who was once Malta’s most powerful man would do something so patently ridiculous.
Well, the web domain for the fake Malta Today was purchased on 15 February.
You’ll recall that just two days earlier, Melvin Theuma told a packed courtroom Schembri “certainly” knew in 2018 of the involvement of Yorgen Fenech in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Things weren’t looking very good for the former Chief of Staff. And they weren’t looking good for ‘Ix-Xiħ’, who was also named in the tapes.
And then the world was hit with one of those rare twists of fate, and the compilation of evidence against Fenech was put on pause.
People are dying painfully on ventilators, and thousands of Maltese citizens have lost their jobs. There isn’t much hope for the economy, either, with global tourism gutted, online gaming contracting, and the island’s real estate bubble about to pop.
People are scared — with good reason.
But none are more frightened than Keith Schembri, who is desperate not to end up behind bars like his friend Ali Sadr. He’s busy using the COVID-19 pandemic to scrub any remaining trace of blood from his hands.
Of course, he may have nothing to do with this…someone else may be laying a trap…he could be a ‘victim’ in all this. Strange though, that its message is on the major issue haunting Schembri – news of his alleged involvement in an assassination.
While concocting an inept parody of Malta Today might seem like a strange way to influence opinion, desperate times call for desperate measures.
They do not, however, call for a proofreader. The site was assembled with such attention to detail that Schembri’s name is spelt wrong in several places. Thankfully, they got it right on the other site.
Yes, you read that right. There’s more than one site.
In case the faux Malta Today wasn’t enough to convince you of his innocence, you can visit “Keith Schembri: Maltese Politician” to read the rags-to-riches fairy tale of Malta’s favourite money launderer. That went online on 6 April. And the two sites are connected through links.
I know the title might come as a shock. Surely il-Kink was telling the truth when he said Konnie Kon had to resign over the Panama Papers but Keith did not because “he is not a political figure”. But there it is in the headline, straight from the horse’s mouth.
This offence to the English language is riddled with errors, including headings like “Keith Schembri & personnel life (sic)” – by “personnel” does he mean his little minion Neville Guffaw?
But if you can suppress your inner editor and look beyond the grammar, you will be treated to Schembri’s entire life story.
It’s everything we’ve come to expect from a member of the Kickback King’s Inner Circle: self-obsession, an utter detachment from objective reality, no attention to detail, and pathetic attempts at playing the victim.
No one but Keith or his mother could recite the details of this insipid bio.
It reads like the resume my mother wrote for my sister in high school. The one that began, “Alison is a hard worker…”
The parallels are truly uncanny, but I can assure you my mother did not write this: “During the ruling period of the Labourites, Schembri was credited in many occasions for his hard work”.
It is an embarrassing insult to our intelligence.
The tale begins in “a rundown neighbourhood at Cospicua”, picks up speed in primary school, pauses to reflect on Keith’s study of art and languages, and ends with his generous funding of Puttinu Cares.
We’re told he got there by way of all the legitimate businesses this paragon of virtue created (none of which are hiding offshore — not even the ones in the British Virgin Islands that showed up in Muscat’s Egrant report).
I encourage you to take a skim through Keith’s canned bio. But be warned: you’ll need to shower vigorously with a bar of good old fashioned carbolic soap by the time you reach the end of it.
These guys are truly shameless.
Schembri comes across as a man overboard, flailing for a rope in a wave-thrashed sea.
How desperate does he have to be to use something like this to counter whatever he fears Fenech will tell the court?