There’s a plague raging on the streets of Malta, and it runs much deeper than the novel coronavirus.
It’s more contagious than cooties, the kissing disease and the common cold. And it’s been raising red flags around the world since a hotspot was identified in the Mediterranean.
Everyone smelled the stench in the room, of course. But no one was sure where the infection was coming from.
The brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia provided a stark warning. And the tireless efforts by government and law enforcement officials in Malta to leave the most important stones unturned in the case was another strong indication of who the superspreaders are.
When the international community turned the spotlight on the island, they found festering sores everywhere.
Those sores are now spreading to nearly everyone who comes into contact with the carrier.
The root cause of this malady? Insatiable greed paired with amorality and compounded by a sense of entitlement.
You can see it play out in their handling of COVID-19.
Officials in Malta are doing their best to spread coronavirus to the rest of Europe because ‘Ibiza is closed for the summer — it’s our chance to cash in!’
Hosting mass parties during the height of a global pandemic may seem shockingly irresponsible, especially to those countries whose economies and health care services will be devastated by returning travellers who take the virus home with them.
But that’s their problem, not Malta’s. Those Labour-connected event organisers have a right to feed their family, and to make hay while the sun shines. Anyone who disagrees is just being negative.
Unfortunately, blaming Malta’s rapidly increasing virus numbers on a boatload of migrants hasn’t fooled other EU Member States.
Lithuania acted quickly to block all travel from Malta, Latvia issued strong warnings against it, and Ireland put Malta on the list of risk countries from which returning travellers must go straight to 14-day self-isolation.
Look for more countries to do the same as Robert Abela flounders around, trying to keep the money flowing to his friends and backers while doing as little as possible to protect vulnerable Maltese citizens.
The tourism industry will suffer the brunt of it.
Unfortunately, spiking coronavirus numbers in an island which had largely managed to keep the plague out isn’t the only ball of contagion they’re fumbling.
Malta has also come down with a serious case of money laundering.
The seriousness of this illness became apparent when the Americans arrested Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr Hasheminejad after the European Central Bank ordered Malta to shut the operation down.
Who knows how much money was funnelled through Pilatus from Azerbaijan and Iran, and to various Politically Exposed Persons on the island?
Other banks weren’t taking any chances with this contagion, as they moved quickly to cut Bank of Valletta’s US dollar correspondent banking relationships.
Watch for even stronger measures to be implemented if Malta fails the Moneyval test in October. Such measures will effectively put an end to the island’s gaming industry, and set the financial services industry back decades.
Sadly, licensing dodgy banks and looking away while they did whatever they wanted isn’t even the worst of it.
Political corruption has been spreading, too.
Recent efforts to locate the source of infection have traced the initial outbreak to Joseph Muscat’s time as an MEP when he sat on the EU-Azerbaijan parliamentary committee. But that research is still inconclusive.
We do know the contagion spread when Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and Kurt Farrugia took a secret trip to Baku in 2014, where they were undoubtedly exposed to a massive viral load.
In the meantime, another serious case broke out, this time inside three formerly-public hospitals. Vitals Global Healthcare succumbed and was replaced by Steward Health Care, but this didn’t stop the viral corruption from spreading to several similar hospitals in Montenegro and Albania, and to a range of ‘business’ entities in offshore centres, including Jersey and the British Virgin Islands.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it seems that the Maltese Virus might also be transmitted through contact with tainted documents.
Several customers who bought Maltese passports are infected, and who knows how many more are rotten to the core with it. Unfortunately, efforts to trace these individuals to their Maltese addresses failed when they all led to the same empty basement flats.
Border officials are now on the lookout for anyone presenting a Maltese passport at checkpoints, especially those travelling to London or Dubai. They are advised to give anyone carrying that passport the same level of increased scrutiny that’s now being applied to wire transfers from Maltese banks.
Sadly, I don’t think much can be done to save Patient Zero.
Law enforcement officers who should have been treating the sick to a quick trip to jail came down with corruption, too. Former deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta caught it while snuggling with alleged murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech on holiday.
Who knows how many other police officers and judges are now carriers?
The gaming industry caught it, too, as Malta’s lax financial regulation attracted the ‘Ndrangheta to the island to bleach their dirty money clean.
When corruption infected the top echelons of government, Malta became an enthusiastic epicentre for every fresh mutation.
Speaking of superspreaders, has anyone checked on Brian Tonna and Karl Cini lately? If anyone warrants aggressive contract tracing, it’s those two.
The epidemic outbreak of Maltese corruption has spread to other EU Member States, to the Balkans, and who knows where else. But there’s still time to stop it in its tracks.
There’s one sure way to control contagion: seal it off until the malady burns itself out.
Look for the international financial community to do just that, isolating Malta as a pariah until it cleans up the mess Joseph Muscat made.
Unfortunately, the prognosis is bleak.
When faced with the choice of arrests and prosecutions versus the collapse of the country’s economy, I’m betting the rats will do anything possible to save themselves — and to hell with everyone else.