It’s all Roberta Metsola’s fault.
The European Commission is poised to slap down hard on Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme.
Never mind that she’s been nominated to serve as vice-president of the European Parliament, what people need to get into their head is that the easy money would have kept flowing if only the traitors in Brussels had kept their big Malta-hating negative mouths shut.
That’s what Bobby Backdown’s saying, and he’s sticking to it.
If it wasn’t for the blabbermouths in Brussels and those pesky anti-corruption journalists, then no one in Europe would have noticed criminals routinely slipping through the fine mesh of Malta’s due diligence process as easily as laundered tuna slips its way from Malta to Spain.
No one would have noticed the former chief of staff’s bank accounts and businesses were frozen over money laundering investigations into alleged kickbacks from that very same cash-for-passports scheme.
And no matter what anyone tries to tell you, the imminent demise of yet another Muscat-omics pipe dream has nothing to do with the basic fact that selling unlimited access to other people’s countries and pocketing the cash is a pretty sleazy thing to do.
Never mind that it’s just like weaselling one’s way into an exclusive club and then peddling memberships to shady customers out the back door.
Malta has long insisted that sovereignty is a national responsibility. It’s Malta’s right to sell its citizenship to whoever can bypass the ‘incredibly stringent’ due diligence with a well-placed kickback. The risks to other member states are their problem, not yours.
It’s interesting they should say this: ‘Sovereignty is a national responsibility’.
If that’s the case, then countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy also have every right to restrict shady Russian oligarchs and other assorted Middle Eastern and Chinese money launderers from taking up residence in their respective countries.
But Backdown Bobby’s pals have made the decision for them. And unfortunately, no one’s willing to take Malta’s word for much of anything anymore.
The sad fact is that this was all so predictable.
I predicted it myself, in fact, in the very first political article I ever wrote about Malta. I wrote it on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog in the lead up to the 2017 election.
I pointed out that, if the Maltese people reelected Joseph Muscat on a platform of corruption, then a very clear set of consequences would follow.
The EU would shut down Malta’s sleazy cash-for-passports scheme.
Maltese banks would come under greater levels of scrutiny to the point of being financial pariahs (uh oh, there goes another US dollar correspondent bank…!).
Gaming companies would begin to jump ship, relocating to jurisdictions where laundering mafia money wasn’t so run of the mill as to be normal business.
And this would stick the final pin in the property bubble, as all those gullible foreigners stopped paying far too much money for some very crappy flats.
At least there would still be cheap tourism. Surely everyone could scrape by with that?
Uh oh, here comes Uncle Covid-19 to pull another rug out from under Slow Eddie Scicluna’s rocking chair.
They sure have gotten themselves into a pickle thanks to their own unquenchable greed. But Muscat’s safely out of the picture, and Bobby Backdown’s left holding the bag.
European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, said very clearly that “there cannot be a weak link in EU efforts to curb corruption and money laundering. EU passports cannot be for sale”.
Bobby vowed to defend the programme, bravely signalling his determination to be dragged from the table kicking and screaming like a child throwing a tantrum.
No doubt he’ll force the European Commission to take those infringement proceedings to the limit, just as this government has done with hunting and trapping.
Defending the indefensible has long been a Labour staple, but this is a battle he simply won’t win. He’s just helping the Commission push through a total ban.
The head of the cash-for-passports programme, Jonathan Cardona, has accepted reality. He’s started applying for new “top jobs”.
How long before the rest of the greedy hangers-on scent the change in the wind and abandon ship? There won’t be enough fake consultancies for everyone. They’d better cash in while there’s still something to steal.
The demise of this most lucrative money-for-nothing scheme leaves a gaping hole in the country’s finances just in time for the biggest global economic downturn most of us have seen in our lifetimes.
Unfortunately, no number of creatine shakes and fake spray tans will help the Poser-in-Chief bulk up an economy built on dopes and wilful delusions.
Blaming the person who pointed out the problem was never a very good strategy. It doesn’t even work in third grade.
Let me propose a viable alternative.
I suggest Bobby Backdown summon his cutting-edge cadre of ministers, hand out the short skirts and re-open Strait Street. I’m sure Little Ian Borg will fetch a handsome price. There might even be fetishists who go for Manuel Mallia, too.
It’s time for them to close their eyes and think of Malta.
They’ve already given you a pretty good shafting. It looks like they’re about to get one of their own.