It looks bad because it is bad

“It looks bad, but it’s not.”

So said Edward Scicluna when he tried to convince US news programme 60 Minutes that Malta’s reputation for rampant corruption was just an image problem.

Who’d have guessed the Finance Minister’s prophetic words would apply so broadly under the slowly solidifying regime of Robert Abela?

Abela doesn’t want to drive away business, the sort that put the Mafia State on the map. But this fledgeling pirate with his self-absorbed Castro-style endless monologues is looking more like Peter Pan than Muscat’s pint-sized Henry Morgan.

Should he try for Captain Hook, minus the angry alligator? Or should he stick with Backdown Bobby?

Whichever way he cuts it, “It looks bad, but it’s not” could be his next election slogan.

It looks bad that Abela’s entire Cabinet is under criminal investigation for misuse of public funds. But I’m sure that’s just a misunderstanding. They’re competing with the Malta police traffic division to see who can get more serving members indicted at the same time… or who can get away with more.

It looked bad when Abela’s predecessor was named 2019 OCCRP Person of the Year in Organized Crime and Corruption, joining an illustrious dishonour roll that includes Muscat’s friends Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro. But I’m sure that’s just motivated by jealousy of Malta’s incredible economic success.

It looks bad that one current and two former Ministers — Slow Eddie Scicluna, Con Man Mizzi, and Brothels Cardona — are under criminal investigation for the Vitals Global Healthcare deal. But I’m sure it’s just the unfair media taking the dodgy deal out of context again.

It looks bad that Keith Schembri “lost” his phone the night before he was arrested and questioned in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. But “fake newspaper” Schembri can always use the tired old excuse of “What about Chris, he’s in it, too!”

It looks bad that the two senior police officers on the case — Bunny Cutajar and Silly Silvio Valletta — were implicated by the State’s witness, who told the court the two had passed information to the murder middleman and the alleged mastermind. But I guess it’s a small island, and everyone knows everyone else.

It looks bad that the Prime Minister picked the new police commissioner again, even though they promised the Venice Commission they wouldn’t do that anymore.

And it looks even worse that the Con Man made a sudden recovery from John-Dalli-itis and flew back to Malta immediately after the announcement was made. But I’m sure the timing was just a coincidence. Opening three Panama companies within days of being elected was just a coincidence, too.

It looks bad that so many convicted criminals slipped past Malta’s allegedly strict due diligence checks and bought a European Union passport for a boatload of cash. But I’m sure all the others are honest, upstanding citizens. You can even ask them if you want to. They’re all living in the same basement flat.

It looks bad that the MTA gave VistaJet millions of euro on the order of the Office of the Prime Minister — with no oversight or verification that ‘work’ was done — right after Ali Sadr Hasheminejad’s Pilatus Bank run and the mysterious 4am flight to Baku, Azerbaijan.

But I’m sure his expensive clothes just need special laundering. The private jet service for millionaires is doing great work promoting Malta’s mass tourism industry by uploading marketing crap on an in-flight iPad.

It looked bad when the Prime Minister of an EU Member State and his chief of staff teamed up with dodgy passport pedlars to sue a journalist. But protecting the questionable reputation of a private foreign company was more important than protecting their citizen.

It looks bad that Malta ran floating prisons for migrants just outside its territorial waters, used 425 desperate people as hostages against the EU, and then failed to make the EU pay for this government’s illegal actions.

But Malta’s been abandoned by Europe (‘…don’t mention the €20 million in AMIF funds…. …don’t mention the €20 million…’). And besides, we only want cheap workers to exploit on building sites. After that, send them back to their country.

It looks bad that 89% of Maltese believe corruption is widespread in the country. But that’s just jealousy from those who can’t stand to see Malta reaching for ‘Best in Europe’ in yet another dubious category.

On second thought, when you put it all together like this, it doesn’t just look bad. It looks rotten to the core.

When it comes to looting the public purse, the massive protests of November and December barely slowed this lot down. They aren’t stopping until they’ve taken everything that isn’t nailed down.

I suppose someone has to keep Muscat and his Inner Circle from being prosecuted for their crimes.

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