Anyone following the stench of Malta’s overflowing sewer of scandal and ignominy was treated to a shocking, but telling, display of arrogance, ignorance, disdain and contempt this week.
Wednesday’s parliamentary public accounts committee meeting starred Electrogas shareholder Paul Apap Bologna trying very hard to not give any evidence at all about his involvement with the corrupt deal. Apap Bologna was accompanied by criminal lawyer Gianella de Marco, whose surprise appearance was only outdone by her dumbfounding performance.
She appeared, to lay observers such as me, to do everything she could to stymie the proceedings, squander the limited time dedicated to the sitting in arguing about the questions asked, and instructing Apap Bologna to refuse to reply. In the middle of this, she astonishingly thought it appropriate to share shoulder shrugs, smiles and giggles with the representatives of the disgrace-ridden government sitting across the table.
Watching the daughter of the late President of the Republic and long-serving PN Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Guido de Marco aligning herself with the interests of PL MP and former Castille smut-blogger-in-residence, Glenn Bedingfield, was truly nauseating.
As they backed each other up in attempting to block, ridicule and sneer at the PN MPs interrogating Apap Bologna about the depth of his connections with the accused murderer he’d chosen to invite into the Electrogas project, I felt the ground beneath me heave with the convulsions of thousands of deceased Nationalists turning, horrified, in their graves.
And what was Ms Dimplechin even doing there? Her contribution, unsurprisingly, appeared to be absolutely zero, bar smirking and simpering at the grotesque Bedingfield and his surprise ally, de Marco and tossing her hair. Besides, as a suspended junior minister under investigation for having allegedly accepted commissions on a property deal involving the self-same accused murderer, Yorgen Fenech, in the form of hard cash in an envelope slipped to her across a table in a public place, surely she is not a fit and proper person to participate in such events?
How on earth is it deemed acceptable that this person is permitted to be part of these proceedings? This is a former “hostess” who reportedly had an affair with said accused and very married murderer, whose only intervention at the Council of Europe in six years was to stand up and defend that same accused murderer, and who spends her free time posting photos of herself in simpering, teen-style poses on social media.
In Apap Bologna, though, we were given a glimpse of the true venality of the business barons who have corrupted and compromised the entire structure of Malta’s political landscape and, therefore, Malta itself. The arrogance of his clipped interjections, the impatience in his voice, the rudeness implied in his short, contemptuous replies; this was a vivid picture of what happens when politicians sell their souls to those whose driving force is filthy lucre, even unto the devastation of their own country.
Apap Bologna may come from a long, noble line of ancestors, but what a disgrace he’s brought to his ancient family name. I remember his late grandmother well, an elegant, gracious lady, for whom honour and integrity were paramount. I can’t help wondering what she would have made of her grandson consorting, at dinner parties apparently, with the most corrupt man in the world of 2019 and his cabal of money-grabbing familiars. Or of the fact that her grandson invited a sordid character like Yorgen Fenech, a drug-taking, casino-running alleged money-launderer and corrupter of politicians, to do business with him.
How dare Apap Bologna treat our elected representatives, entrusted with doing the crucial job of unearthing the truth about the most scandalously corrupt deal ever struck in Malta, with such an undeserved and unearned air of superiority? Arrogance is what leads to hubris, and specimens such as he, who consort with murderers, corrupt politicians and the most sordid of business partners, are destined to learn soon what that feels like.
He and his shoulder-patting, chair-swivelling lawyer may not have quite understood that while the population of Malta may have initially been so shell-shocked it watched open-mouthed as his chosen business associates and dinner party companions robbed Malta blind and stabbed it in the back, their assassination of Malta’s leading journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, in 2017 jerked that population wide awake. It may have taken a few years for the fury to erupt, but now that it has, there is nothing that will stop it.
And much as he’d like to act as though he were above all the sordid, seedy actions of his “friend,” accused murderer Yorgen Fenech, he should know that from now on he’ll be stinking of his putrid associations, wherever he goes and whoever he sees.
His insistence that Fenech was entirely and solely responsible for whatever happened around Electrogas is and has always been risible. Indeed, coming after The Sunday Times revealed on 8 May that Apap Bologna owns a secret, United Arab Emirates company identical to Fenech’s proven corruption vehicle 17 Black, the man’s pompously self-important stance becomes even more laughable.
De Marco and her chum Bedingfield may have succeeded in wasting most of the committee’s time on Wednesday, but Apap Bologna really should start taking a few lessons in humility before he next appears. Lest he forget, I’ll remind him that Daphne Caruana Galizia – brutally murdered, allegedly, by his business partner and, according to 635 MEPs as well as anyone with half a brain in Malta, the very dinner-party companions he was so squeamish about mentioning to the committee – exposed reams of information about his corrupt cronies in the years between 2013 and 2017 and had been about to publish a host of further incriminating stories about the scandalous Electrogas scam when she was killed. No, Apap Bologna cannot plead ignorance, not unless he wants us to believe he can’t read.
The almost-two-hour hearing was an eye-opener to me. Having followed scores of parliamentary select committee inquiries in London, I was astonished at the casual air of the local version, the vulgar language, the non-stop bickering between members of the committee, the lack of respect from any of the participants for the dignity of the proceedings, the several MPs gazing with glazed eyes at their phones through the entire rigmarole and the total absence of gravitas all round.
It was a pantomime. A parody of what a real committee meeting in a normal country would look like. Of course, people like Apap Bologna and de Marco would try to beat down their interrogators with haughtiness and conceit. But no matter the paucity of the proceedings, viewers will have no doubt, after that performance, that arrogance does indeed lead to hubris, even for those with the longest of pedigrees. There are reasons many of the most prominent families of centuries gone by have disappeared into the dust. Apap Bologna would do well to remember that.
You can follow the parliamentary committee proceedings here.