Buying silence one stooge at a time

Former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is the latest Muscat crony to have his “parting gift” placed in the spotlight.

It turns out the Commissioner that the people had been trying to get rid of since the 2017 Pilatus Bank debacle wasn’t asked to leave when Robert Abela took power.

No, that indication of progress was just window dressing. Cutajar signed a contract for a new €31,000 per year part-time job with the Home Affairs Ministry on the very same day he tendered his resignation.

It’s not a bad deal, either, considering his full-time Commissioner’s salary was €37,946.

I can’t say Cutajar walked away with his dignity intact. But he’s also getting an ‘expertise’ allowance of €9,000 and a fully paid car. Does it come with flashing lights and sirens? The contract didn’t specify.

I can imagine how the whole thing must have played out… Cutajar and Abela facing each other across a table, a resignation letter in one hand and a fresh contract in the other.

“You let go first.”

“No, you let go first.”

Have a look at the cancellation clause. One month’s notice in writing, or payment of two weeks’ salary (€800)… a favour in case The ex-Commish couldn’t find another job.

But surely a man with Cutajar’s stellar reputation doesn’t need handouts? Okay, he won’t be in demand for any policing. But there must be several restaurants in Mġarr that would be honoured to employ a Bunny Nibbler of his discriminating taste.

Of course, the former policeman isn’t the only one who walked away from the Muscat Years with a lucrative Keep Quiet Contract.

It turns out Konrad Mizzi didn’t resign in disgrace last December when his Cabinet colleagues were trying to distance themselves from the anchor who was dragging them down with the ship.

No, the Kon-Man actually got a raise in the form of an €80,000 per year consulting non-job with the MTA, courtesy of everyone’s favourite Kickback Kink.

Unfortunately, Bobby Backdown was forced to back down on that one once everyone else found out about it.

But Mizzi is still drawing his salary as an MP. Okay, he isn’t showing up these days. No one’s seen him in parliament since early March. He’s pulling a John Dalli, hiding out in London, begging doctor’s notes to pretend he’s unfit to travel.

He is fit for one thing, though. A 6×6 cell. And therein lies the problem.

But don’t worry, the Kon-Man will be okay. He may not have much in the way of savings, according to his official asset declarations. But he’ll find some way to make ends meet. We’ll probably see him again once the new police commissioner has been appointed.

In the meantime, you’re paying for a few other contracts to people who know too much to be left unremunerated.

Take Mizzi’s friend David Galea, for example. He did really well for himself after he got involved with Electrogas.

This multi-talented man didn’t just help choose Electrogas as the winning power station bidder. He also helped the Board that he’s a member of conduct a review into how they awarded the contract in the first place.

Sure, they could have used some impartial outside auditor or agency, but there would be so much to explain. This was just easier. After all, Galea knows all the details. And he’s been raking in public contracts ever since.

Of course, some parting gifts were more generous than others. But I guess it’s all a question of just how much one has to lose.

When it comes to the really important ones, the sky’s the limit. The MTA gave €4.5 million to VistaJet so it could promote Malta to the handful of super rich clients who ignore its in flight magazine when sipping champagne over Europe.

No one wants to take responsibility for approving the payment. But it’s just a coincidence all that public money started flowing their way when VistaJet operated that mysterious night flight to Azerbaijan just hours after Ali Sadr whisked two bulging bags out of Pilatus Bank.

And what of the disgraced ex-prime minister?

It must be frightening to be unemployed at such a time, with only an MP’s salary to draw on, and all those private school fees and business class airfares to pay for. But don’t worry. Like the rest of the Inner Circle, Muscat seems to have landed on his feet.

We have no idea what sort of severance package he received when he was driven from office. Abela refused to tell us. Did he send himself off with a consulting contract like Mizzi? It’ll surface eventually if he did.

But in the meantime, The Man Who Used to Be Kink is busy lobbying for Steward Health Care and helping Robert Abela with the economy.

I hope Bobby Backdown didn’t pay too much for that report Muscat wrote. His back-of-a-napkin list of projections read like something a fortune teller whipped up on his lunch break.

“It might be a little slow, or it might be a little slow and then fast. Of course, it could be very slow and then very slow, or it might resemble a sort of hockey stick.”

The only line he didn’t include was, “Really, it’s anyone’s guess.”

It’s fitting that the man who built Malta’s economic miracle on a smoke screen of passport sales, iGaming, and shady financial services should produce a forecast so vague it could fit just about any outcome.

“Wow, I really AM a Gemini!”

For a man who campaigned on promises of transparency, the only thing see-through about him is his lies.

Speaking of hiding things… President George Vella has turned down an FOI request to make Muscat’s resignation letter public, on the grounds that it would “have a  substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of a public authority”.

In other words, publishing Muscat’s resignation letter might harm the government’s ability to function.

What sort of resignation letter is so toxic it could disrupt the ability of the government to do its job? Isn’t that a pretty good indication it might be in the public interest to see it?

Vella seems to miss the point that FOI requests are meant to keep the government accountable to the people, and not to help the government hide its stained undershorts.

I don’t imagine the letter would include any sort of confession. Accepting responsibility for anything negative just isn’t done in Muscat’s world. But he was fond of playing the victim. Did he blame everyone around him for forcing him out? I just want to set my mind at ease that il-Kink left in a glow of serenity.

We can be sure of one thing, though. They’ll be able to keep the lid on as long as the money keeps flowing.

Muscat may be out of the public eye, but he’s still pulling the strings — and you’re still paying for his friends.


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