Michelle’s merry gold

The First Lady of Kickbackistan knows better than anyone that charity begins at home — her home.

The Shift has revealed how the vanity charity headed by your disgraced former prime minister’s wife has been hoovering up public funds like the former Economy Minister raiding a Dubai minibar.

When it comes to doing one’s duty for Kink and consort, Malta Financial Services Authority CEO Joseph Cuschieri was the largest single donor.

Keith Schembri’s close collaborator signed off on some €170,000 in cheques for Michelle Muscat’s Marigold Foundation. But his interest didn’t begin with his latest public appointment.

No, Cuschieri has been one of Michelle’s most dedicated long term sponsors. He also passed on €120,000 in public funds while running the Malta Gaming Authority — the regulator of an industry mired in controversy.

Cuschieri kept those donor taps open when he moved from the MGA to become CEO of the MFSA in 2018.

Konrad Mizzi got in on the act, too.

No one’s favourite disgraced former minister bequeathed free run of the Mediterranean Conference Centre, free lunches at ITS training restaurants, and €1,000 from the Malta Film Commission, an entity run by Johann Grech, husband of Michelle’s personal assistant.

Not to be outdone by their generosity with your money, the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry, Enemalta, the Water Services Corporation, Transport Malta,  and Infrastructure Malta were all generous donors to the ‘charity’ run by Joseph Muscat’s wife.

Marigold even got its ‘headquarters’ renovated with taxpayer funds. The Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity transformed a dilapidated dump in Marsa into ‘Marigold Place’ through a generous application of tenders and direct orders worth close to €1 million.

Far be it for me to shatter anyone’s serenity by being ‘negative’, but isn’t anyone else uncomfortable with the fact that all these government entities are run by people who owe their jobs to Joseph Muscat?

Anyway, don’t thank them for their generous donations to Michelle’s vanity charity. Pat yourself on the back. It was your money they dished out, not theirs.

Michelle recently grabbed control of the Foundation — an operation with some €1 million in assets — for a measly €100.

Not a bad deal for what is an obvious advertorial for Michelle herself, shining the spotlight on someone whose actual accomplishments aren’t worthy of legitimate public interest.

Of course, Bank of Valletta insisted Michelle had been in charge of Marigold all along. Someone just made an ‘administrative oversight’ when the original deed was drafted.

It doesn’t give you much confidence in BOV’s ‘rigorous oversight’ or its attention to detail, does it? But I’m sure MONEYVAL won’t notice given the Malta-sized mess they’re already sorting through.

Anyway, it’s all been set right, and Michelle is now firmly in control on paper as she was in reality.

The bank diverted our attention from its lack of explanation by listing the ‘good deeds’ this venerable foundation has carried out. And they would want to list those, wouldn’t they? BOV has been one of Marigold’s most faithful donors, dishing out €100,000 per year, every year, from 2016 to 2019.

So what exactly does this Marigold Foundation do?

It receives donations — mostly pubic funds donated by government entities headed by people her husband appointed — and it doles that money out to other charities and NGOs after taking a cut for “administrative expenses”.

It’s a page right out of The Dictator’s Handbook.

Perhaps Michelle got some advice from Leyla Aliyeva? Azrbaijan’s first family has a charity, too — the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. No one seems to know what it does, apart from secretly owning multi million dollar properties abroad for the Aliyev family.

But I’m sure nothing like that could ever happen in Malta.

Anyway, the Marigold Foundation has another essential role beyond redistributing public funds to other ‘charities’ for a 16% ‘administrative’ cut.

It exists to shine a light on the First Lady of Kickbackistan and her ‘glamourous’ entourage of assorted hangers on.

Marigold reminds me of one those fake paparazzi companies that wannabe stars hire in Japan.

It works like this. Someone of mediocre talent, desperate for the adulation they see lavished on famous musicians and actors, buys a “famous-for-a-day” package that includes four to six photography geeks with enormous cameras and an optional bodyguard, who then follow them through Tokyo’s trendiest neighbourhoods while pretending they’re someone special.

Random people see the action and start taking photos too, assuming this paying customer must be a celebrity.

It’s pretty pathetic, but it’s a harmless bit of make-believe. The customer pays up, but for one brief shining moment, they feel like a star.

You can take this to entirely new levels when you’ve got the resources of a State behind you.

Why fake a paparazzi-mob in Sliema when you can use the Armed Forces of Malta to help you fake a swim?

Call out the AFM rescue divers, helicopters and boats! But don’t call up the independent media. ‘Coverage’ of your faux feat must be carefully restricted to the government-controlled national broadcaster.

Judging by the record setting speed the former first lady achieved on her last swim, her churning wake should have been visible from space.

Unfortunately for the adoring sheep who lapped it all up, the only actual speed record set by Michelle was the speed with which she drained public funds.

Her husband is no stranger to speed records, either. He rushed in and out of government so quickly he didn’t manage to finish either of his two terms.

I hope the disgraced former First Lady will allow me to make my own small contribution to the glories of the Marigold Foundation.

I can’t donate money, but I’d like to donate the new official slogan.

‘The lord helps those who help themselves. Now let me help myself to some more of those public funds.’

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