At the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Kurt Farrugia’s testimony was food for thought — a kind of Bounty bar, chocolate on the surface but pure coconut within.
Joseph Muscat’s former communications chief had an overarching message: his boss had high ethical standards and was engulfed in scandal only by those around him. Farrugia’s own evidence, however, undermined that message. The coconut overwhelmed the chocolate.
Chocolate: Muscat treated opponents ethically. He once blocked a blog post by Glenn Bedingfield because it trespassed into a politician’s private life.
Coconut: Such restraint only highlights the different standard applied to Caruana Galizia. With her, it was open season. Bedingfield’s blog frequently intruded into her private life, real or imagined. Were there no objections to such posts?
Chocolate: “With hindsight” the Electrogas and VGH documentation should have been published. That might have prevented some of what came later.
Coconut: What kind of government needs hindsight to be transparent? It’s the first rule of liberal democracy.
The argument seems to be that public scrutiny would have made the highly suspicious features of both projects undeniable.
The government, however, had the documents. It was a party to the agreements. How come it did not catch what journalists immediately spotted? Either the government was steered by fools or by crooks.
Chocolate: Farrugia underlined his own standards. In internal discussions he was always clear that people caught with Panama companies have no place in public life.
Coconut: This assertion of an obvious international standard only highlights the contrast with Muscat, who made it clear that people with Panama companies did have a place in his government.
He didn’t merely refuse to sack Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. He was not even taken by surprise by Mizzi’s Panama company. He told us he approved it weeks before the story broke. He also told us that what companies Schembri had were his own business. He said he asked for no explanations on 17 Black (or Macbridge).
Chocolate: Like Farrugia, Muscat was troubled by the discovery of the secret companies. After Panamagate, Muscat treated both Schembri and Mizzi with greater reserve. Or so that is what Farrugia thinks he saw.
Coconut: This claim only serves to remind us that the facts show the opposite. Muscat hugged Mizzi closer, pushing him for deputy leader. Right up to the day Schembri resigned, Muscat praised him publicly. Some reserve.
Chocolate: When Caruana Galizia first dropped coded hints about Mizzi’s secret company, Farrugia asked him about it. Mizzi pooh-poohed the story as bluff.
Coconut: Mizzi told us that he never intended to hide his Panama company. But it seems he did hide it from Farrugia.
Notice that Mizzi did not tell Farrugia that yes, he did have a Panama company, and that he always intended to disclose it at the earliest opportunity.
Funnily enough, he did not say the most reassuring thing of all: that he had just listed it in his parliamentary declaration — with Muscat’s blessing. Could it be that the declaration was concocted after the story broke, and then backdated?
Farrugia’s testimony indicates Mizzi lied to him and then to us. But if Mizzi did lie, Muscat must have been part of the lie told the public. He backed up the story of the declaration.
Chocolate: Farrugia asked Schembri about who owned 17 Black. Was it really Yorgen Fenech? The reply: could be.
Could be? Schembri had ‘draft business plans’ with the secret company. He had to know the owner’s identity.
Coconut: Farrugia leaves no doubt that he saw the evasiveness for what it was. And Muscat? Farrugia raised 17 Black with him. Muscat told him to ask Schembri.
Strange. At that stage, with Fenech and Schembri publicly linked by secret companies, which prime minister would not energetically want answers himself?
The most rational answer: only one who knew the answers already. And one who wanted to keep at a safe distance from any other lie that Farrugia was told, just in case it was uncovered.
Chocolate: Farrugia wants us to know that he is no fool. He upholds the obvious international ethical standards for public life. He served a government that did much good but which was exploited by a few for personal profiteering.
Coconut: If things were obvious to Farrugia, they should have been obvious to Muscat. If they were, why did he offer public cover for two crooks?