Robert Abela has problems on his hands, and they’re making the prime minister hysterical.
He’s gone through some pretty alarming contortions to defend the indefensible, firing ‘you’re in league with criminals, too’ in every direction like a Catherine wheel run amok.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to point the finger at others when he was a lawyer for suspected criminals himself.
Abela defended Tal-Maksar brothers, the men linked to the murder of the journalist who caused his predecessor so many problems. He was a lawyer for that predecessor, too: the OCCRP’s 2019 Person of the Year for Organized Crime and Corruption.
The prime minister can’t scour out the Augean Stables that is his cabinet without also purging himself.
The cabinet member who refuses to quit despite being linked to a failed bank robbery that ended in a shootout is his most visible current problem, but it’s hardly the only one. Carmelo Abela inherited Konrad Mizzi’s old chair as the Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister — whatever that is — and he seems to have inherited some of the ol’ Mizzi shine.
In the meantime, Education Minister Justyne Caruana is being investigated by the Standards Commissioner for giving a €5,000 per month contract to the man she is apparently dating.
Caruana was briefly out of the cabinet, having been forced to resign as Gozo Minister when news broke about the close personal relationship between her husband, former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, and the chief suspect in the country’s most shocking political assassination. But it didn’t take her long to get back on the gravy train.
Speaking of Malta’s beleaguered sister island, what is it with these people and their desperate desire to buy off Gozo?
The current Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri — the hunter who’s responsible for protecting the birds he shoots on weekends — is dishing out direct orders like a broken slot machine in Vegas. His latest splurge at your expense was €90,000 to some Augustinian monks (that’s not a joke) for the temporary use of part of an old convent. I assume he’s not planning on taking a vow of celibacy.
Camilleri’s ministry was also responsible for the €9 million — sorry, €16 million — contract to build a new swimming pool in Gozo. You know, the one where they tore down the entire sports complex and started building it over again, even though it had just been renovated using EU funds. In the end, that swimming pool will cause more scandals than the one his cabinet colleague has been fighting so hard to build on ODZ land.
Speaking of which…
The competition is cutthroat, but the Lowest of the Low Award has to go to Transport Minister Ian Borg for swindling a mentally ill man out of land. Borg has a thing about being careless with the truth. He also swore on live TV and then lied about it, embarrassing both the government and himself. But it’s his free-for-all with public funds that’ll cause an ache in your bones for years.
Borg’s close aide and person of trust (there’s that term again…) Jesmond Zammit was recently caught trapping birds illegally in a field in Ghar Lapsi. He’s currently soaking up a generous €67,000 per year working for the minister.
Zammit’s daughter Adreana was on his payroll, too — at least she was until the public caught wind of the lucrative Transport Malta direct order the junior lawyer was given even before she graduated. She was being paid close to €80,000 per year when she resigned to save ‘Ian and daddy’ further embarrassment.
Borg has always been free with direct orders, dishing out a generous €60 million in just three years for everything from rent to the General Workers Union, clerical services, and of course paving.
Sadly, not much can be done about his strange compulsion to eradicate every tree in the country, not when he makes the laws. He really should seek psychological help to get to the root of this strange obsession. Did he hate vegetables that much as a child, so much that trees remind him of the broccoli mummy used to make him eat? Or is he just a self-entitled jerk with a small man complex? A good doctor will sort it out.
Of course, it’ll still be too late for you. Nothing grows on concrete but moss, and you won’t get any shade from that.
Those are just the most visible current scandals in a cabinet absolutely reeking with them.
The in-over-his-head Economy Minister Silvio Schembri recently broke a law passed by his own government when he unilaterally appointed Labour candidate John Vassallo chairman of the Lands Authority. But why shouldn’t he dish out jobs to party insiders? He’s already looked after his family and friends. He’s also looked after himself, making inappropriate use of public resources by filling a DOI press release with partisan cheap shots, and using your money to promote his official ministerial work on his personal social media page.
Minister for Senior Citizens and Active Aging Michael Farrugia hasn’t been embroiled in a mess since his time as Home Affairs Minister, but he’s back in the spotlight again, too.
It turns out Farrugia’s close aide, convicted fraudster and — you guessed it — person of trust Anthony Ellul held an executive position with James Caterers when the ministry he worked for was busy negotiating a €274 million direct order with that company and the DB Group for St Vincent de Paul residence.
Yes, that’s the same Ellul who chaired the State’s Housing Maintenance and Establishment Ltd that gave the phantom job to Melvin Theuma, middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination. Ellul told police he had ‘obeyed orders’ from Keith Schembri.
This isn’t even the minister’s only tie to the cabal connected to Caruana Galizia’s murder. You’ll recall that, as junior minister for planning, Farrugia met with Yorgen Fenech on the same day he ordered an area called Mriehel to be included in a planning policy for high-rise buildings. Fenech’s family business just happened to be building a tower in the area, and visitor logs at the OPM confirm the timing of his visit. But Farrugia vehemently denies ever discussing a change to a Planning Authority high-rise policy with Fenech, and anyone who alleges otherwise is lying.
Speaking of Yorgen Fenech, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis exchanged hundreds of chat messages with the accused mastermind, placing himself in a rather sticky situation given his portfolio. But he’s not expected to know much about the law. His predecessor, former Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, was found guilty by the Constitutional Court of violating citizens’ human right to free expression.
And don’t think the ones who aren’t involved in active scandals are much better.
Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo has defended the entire corrupt lot from the beginning while posting cryptic social media nonsense to imply he’s always been against them. Beware the snake low enough to play both sides. The only one he’s playing is you.
I’m out of space and we’ve barely gotten started.
We haven’t even talked about the choking miasma hanging over them all: the Ghost of Cabinets Past. Joseph Muscat. Keith Schembri. Konrad Mizzi. Chris Cardona. Edward Scicluna.
Will any of these people be held accountable for what they’ve done? You’ll be bankrolling their personal fiefdoms for a very, very long time.