‘Transparently yours, Joseph’

For a man who campaigned on a promise of ‘transparency’, Joseph Muscat has a lot to hide.

Of course, he did promise a roadmap in addition to those cries of transparency, meritocracy and accountability. That roadmap to riches clearly took priority.

And so documents were transparently hidden — and sometimes temporarily “lost” — friends-of-friends merited jobs, and no one was ever held accountable.

The most recent hidden document to come to light was Muscat’s mysterious resignation letter.

‘We can’t publish that’, President George Vella had said, rejecting an FOI request to make it public. The country’s ceremonial Head of State justified discretely hiding it away because showing it to you would “have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of a public authority”.

But that’s in the past, and your curiosity has been satisfied. The disgraced former prime minister himself decided to overrule the president and publish his secretive official au revoir on Facebook.

Unfortunately, reading it raised just as many questions as not reading it had done.

The utter blandness of the letter — ‘Dear Pres, I’m resigning, Joseph’ — led many to speculate that it isn’t the actual letter at all.

Did the original contain such inflammatory finger-pointing that it would have implicated the rest of the Cabinet in the deeds that got il-Kink deposed? Was this just a clever substitute?

I’m inclined to suspect there wasn’t an original resignation letter at all. That Muscat either held back, hoping he could weather the crisis like he weathered so many others, and cling to power to the end of his mandate while keeping those annoying institutions in check.

Or that his total disregard for official procedure, checks and balances, and accountability led him to believe he was above such gestures. He was The Kink, after all.

“But the date…?” you might say.

It wouldn’t be the first time these guys back-dated documents. Ask Kitchen Cabinet members Brian and Karl – they’re experts at making paper agreements look older than they really are.

From Keith Schembri’s bank reference letter for Mossack Fonseca issued on an outdated HSBC letterhead — poor Karl couldn’t remember — to “fake” signatures on Panama company documents, to former Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s backdated rental agreement for the Portomaso flat that businessman Silvan Fenech was letting him live in (presumably for free).

You can’t trust the paper or anything these guys printed on it.

But the question remains. Why publish il-Kink’s resignation letter now?

Could they be desperately spraying a fresh coat of paint over the rust-rotted truck in the hope of selling the international community, including MONEYVAL, what is really a broken down wreck?

If so, they’d be acting under two very big — and very erroneous — assumptions. One, that the international community is only going to look at information fed to them by the Maltese government. And two, that foreign regulatory agencies haven’t been following Malta’s rapid descent to kleptocratic Mafia State with a growing sense of horror since 2017, and perhaps even earlier.

No, that would be expecting too much. But better hide it anyway in the same drawer with everything else. You know, the one with ‘Transparency’ taped to the front of it.

Bury it beneath the massive envelope that says ‘Unredacted Contracts’. It’s bulging with MOU’s, the Vitals Global Healthcare agreement, the Electrogas contracts, the deal for the American University of Jordanian Land Grabs, and who knows what else.

This mysterious drawer exists somewhere in that nether world between “commercial sensitivity” and “I forgot”, safe from the prying eyes of the rest of parliament, and from the citizens who will spend decades honouring the secret agreements that were signed in their name.

Speaking of Maltese citizens, some of that’s a secret, too.

The government repeatedly refused to reveal the names of your fellow citizens. You know, the ones who bought passports by way of il-Kink’s EU Citizenship for Sale scheme.

When told they had to publish the list, they deliberately buried the identities of all those Russian oligarchs, Middle Eastern oil barons and their families by importing them into the database of people who were granted citizenship through naturalisation.

Then they picked up that database, shook vigorously, and poured out a list alphabetised by first name.

Have you ever seen any other list — government or otherwise — alphabetised by first name?

And that’s not all. We currently get the jumbled list up to two years after citizenship has been granted. Yes, you read that right. We still have no idea which ghouls became Maltese citizens after December 2018. In December this year, for example, we’ll receive the list of those who got their citizenship in 2019.

The Shift uncovered the shady past of several of these people who had been vetted so ‘carefully’ under Malta’s stringent due diligence process.

Of course, this is just the outright flogging of EU passports for a nice cash deposit and an empty promise of living on an island most of these people have never seen.

The granting of Schengen Zone visas by Maltese representatives is even more secretive and no less lucrative.

Civil service head Mario Cutajar’s brother Aldo — Mrs Konrad Mizzi’s replacement as Maltese consul in Shanghai — seems to have made a lucrative tax-free living by selling access to fellow EU Member States under the table in China.

And let’s not forget the Algerian visa scandal where the Kink’s own cousin was allegedly making a tidy income helping Algerians vanish into Europe. And of course Neville Gafa’s first venture under Labour involved helping Libyans do the same with his medical visa scam.

Speaking of no one’s favourite hot potato, everyone denied the former spectacles salesman worked for them until the cock crowed thrice and we found out he worked for Muscat’s own office. I guess il-Kink must have forgotten about Schembri’s simpering football buddy. After all, Gafa and the chief of staff only took long walks on the beach together and talked about football. It’s not like he stood out at the OPM in his hot pink shirts.

But don’t worry, that’s all in the past. Gafa’s moved on. He’s become some sort of unofficial envoy, Malta’s deniable messenger between your government and Libyan slave traders.

All the Kink’s Men don’t just hide contracts they signed on behalf of the people — agreements you’ll have to live up to long after they’re gone from office. They hide relationships, too.

That’s an awful lot of hiding after all their talk of transparency, meritocracy and good government.

Perhaps they thought it meant something else?

                           
                               
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