Joseph Muscat knew he was in trouble when Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed that a Maltese bank his cronies had licensed was acting as a money-laundering machine for Azerbaijani clients and Maltese PEPs.
If she knew Pilatus bank was moving that money, she might also know where — and why — they were getting it. Could this be coming next?
‘Shades of 17 Black, we’ve gotta do something!’
They needed a distraction from the stories they feared she was about to publish.
Muscat was desperate to divert attention from the corruption scandals forming a very precarious sinkhole on the ground where he was standing.
They knew the best way to blind their greedy followers was to convince them il-Kink was putting money in their pockets.
But how could he call an early election when his grand promise of cheap energy still wasn’t even making a spark?
It was far too early to start buying votes with non-jobs and bags of fruit. They’d just have to open the power station instead.
The problem was that his main promise from 2013 was still an idle construction lot.
They said it’d be up and running by March 2015, but they missed the first two deadlines, were billed millions in compensation costs by Enemalta for screwing up, and nearly went bankrupt, requiring a massive State-guaranteed loan just to stay afloat.
To make matters worse, Muscat had made a pre-electoral pledge to resign if it wasn’t completed within two years. Of course, he never meant it at the time. Muscat said lots of things he didn’t mean. But it was inconvenient just the same.
No, the power station would just have to be opened, whether it was running or not. The Kink’s reelection — and his lucrative retirement plan — was counting on it. They needed something big they could ‘put on TV’.
The pressure they brought to bear was enormous.
With one-third of its gas turbines out of action and months from being able to run efficiently, the rushed opening caused Electrogas to bleed €2 million more than they were already losing on this debacle.
Even Konrad Mizzi got tired of putting the squeeze on these guys. If they didn’t cave to OPM demands, he told them, then he wouldn’t “stick his neck out again for the project”. And then he hung up on them.
A spectacle of this size was beyond the abilities of the Electrogas team, who had obviously envisioned a simple ribbon-cutting that cost a fraction of what they had to spend – €100,000 for a select 106 guests.
But Muscat knew a ceremony like that wouldn’t drown out whatever fresh revelations Daphne was about to publish.
And that’s when the OPM took over the PR campaign for a private company.
Events Coordinator Pierre Cachia knew no inauguration would be complete without a ‘totem’.
Not an elaborately carved wooden pole from the Tlingit First Nations of Northwest Canada — although it would have been interesting to see Muscat’s squished up angry toddler glare crowning a monument like that.
No, this was a freestanding plaque commemorating an achievement they hadn’t yet achieved.
They also rented fake offices normally used for film sets so they could create scenes that looked like people were actually working there.
The video projections alone, handled by Labour crony Pedja Miletic’s Monolith Ltd — cost over €50,000.
The elaborate light show was handled by — you guessed it — everyone’s favourite direct order dumping ground, Nexos Lighting & Vision. Silvio Scerri’s company had earned its chops by lighting the bloated dome of Manual ‘your money under his bed’ Mallia for his personal election campaign.
Okay, yes, he put 40 people in the hospital with eye problems — including your Kink — at a Labour Party rally in Zurrieq. But he just gets carried away sometimes.
And getting carried away is exactly what they did in Delimara, complete with ‘visual surprises’, ‘culminations’ and ‘pay-offs’.
Yeah, with Labour that last one is a given.
I’m not sure why they needed to include children in their grand charade. Surely the seven-year-olds didn’t work there too? Were they given a direct order? Pint-sized chimney sweeps someone could shove up the flue?
As their visions grew to increasingly elaborate spectacles, Cecil B. DeMille rolled in his grave, and the costs spiralled out of control.
They needed a 22-step spreadsheet to map it all out.
Disappearing chimneys. Reappearing chimneys. Elaborate smoke signals. And enough flashing lights to trigger grand mal seizures from Marsaxlokk to Dingli Cliffs.
Minute by inexorable, tedious, bullshit minute, the propaganda droned on.
But they had hit a stumbling block.
Joseph wanted numbers on a display screen. Something like the starship Enterprise, ta. You know that big screen they all look at, but with moving dials and changing numbers, so it would seem like the power station was actually operating.
‘Okay, boss. But it’s gonna cost ya…’
Even their buddy Yorgen Fenech tried to screw them on this one (not that he seems very particular in the screwing department..).
“Please try our best to do it and request three times the relief required,” he told his co-conspirator Turab Musayev. “We will need it.”
Not normally known for their discretion with money, the OPM realised it was far too much to pay for a display screen showing numbers. In hindsight, it must have been eating into someone’s kickback.
I don’t know why they didn’t just draw them on cardboard with a marker. It’s not like their Party-blind audience wasn’t fond of ‘let’s pretend’.
In the end, Muscat had to open his long-promised power station that the country didn’t need to the sound of two sputtering turbines. The third had been completely dismantled for ‘urgent repairs’.
But they had created a triumphant two-hour spectacle: The Illusion of a Promise Fulfilled.
Sure, the new power station would be plagued with “unreliability and faults” — they’d still be buying most of your electricity through the Sicily interconnector a year later while struggling along at 10% capacity — but it was Joey’s smoke and mirrors that mattered.
Daphne published her revelations that Schembri had received large sums of money in kickbacks on the sale of EU passports from Brian Tonna — the very same crime that resulted in the freezing of Schembri’s and Tonna’s assets over three years later.
And one week after that, Crafty Keith posted photos of new Labour Party billboards that revealed a general election was imminent.
Sure, every crony who testified before the public inquiry, right up to ministerial level, insisted the early election call had taken them by surprise.
‘I swear I never knew anything until I heard it in the meeedia, my dear….’
But Schembri knew — and so did Yorgen Fenech.
Middleman turned State’s witness Melvin Theuma told the court it was the reason they’d postponed killing Daphne.
They knew by then that she was discovering the truth about Electrogas.
They needed a fresh electoral mandate to weather the storm they were about to unleash.