Clyde Caruana, Malta’s finance minister, has scuttled off to Germany on a last-ditch mission to save our country from the devastation that greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) would bring. A far cry from the euphoria of a few short weeks ago, when he and his colleagues were crowing to anyone who’d listen that they’d “passed” the Moneyval test.
The incompetence and stupidity of the goons in government, coming hot on the heels of the evil criminality of their predecessors under disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat, has led Malta to the edge of the actual abyss.
Greylisting, according to various news reports, is almost certain. The Americans, British and Germans are apparently determined to teach Malta a lesson. You don’t spend eight years cosying up to international criminals, allowing them to open banks for the specific purpose of money laundering, get involved in multiple corrupt deals and money laundering scams, fail to act even when the whole world is watching, lie brazenly about it, even when the truth is flashing across every single TV screen and news portal in the world, and expect to get away with it.
What’s Caruana actually going to do? Stand, head bowed, hands behind his back and tearfully plead with those intent on punishing us to forgive us?
It’s too late for any of this. The vote is less than five days away. Minds have been made up, decisions have been made. The obvious attempt to hoodwink the world into believing Malta had cleaned up its act and was now, scout’s honour, going to behave itself, was so ludicrous I actually find it hard to believe the imbeciles in government ever thought they could get away with it.
These people have been dealing with the uneducated morons who vote for them for so long, they fail to realise that normal people don’t swallow blatant lies so easily. And now, at the eleventh hour, it becomes clear that those who count have not swallowed those lies, or fallen for the falsities of the “strengthened” rules and regulations that ticked the Moneyval boxes.
This is why you don’t vote fools into office. Do they really think the US, the UK and Germany aren’t aware that way before Pilatus Bank was even a gleam in its founder’s eye, we already had strict anti-money laundering laws in place? Or that they don’t know that Pilatus Bank didn’t happen because our rules allowed it, but it happened because the government itself chose to ignore them?
Do they really think these three heavyweight judges haven’t kept a close eye on the way that, despite very clear, unequivocal, laws against corruption, graft, cronyism and all the other financial crimes committed by the familiars of Muscat’s dishonourable regime, none of these rules were actually enforced? That not only were the rules not enforced, but that the institutions set up to regulate, monitor, expose and charge those who ignored the laws, simply didn’t act?
Moneyval’s ticked boxes become irrelevant when it’s clear to anyone with average intelligence that the Maltese government has no intention of using any of the “strengthened” laws to clean up its act, prosecute the criminals who broke them, penalise the institutions and officials who failed to do their duty and root out each and every MP and cabinet member accused of committing a crime.
How is Caruana going to explain away the fact that we have a sitting minister accused of bank robbery, for God’s sake? What possible excuse could he offer for the fact that Rosianne Cutajar, despite her envelope of cash and her unholy alliance with an accused murderer is still a PL MP? How on earth is he going to justify the continued employment of Justyne Caruana, accused of using public funds to pay an unqualified, unsuitable personal friend to do a job her own ministerial officials were actually supposed to be doing?
Why is Konrad Mizzi still at large? Why hasn’t he been arrested and charged? Why is the shameful former Attorney General, Peter Grech, not facing the courts for his unbelievable failure to do his job? The former police commissioner, he who, among so many other things, allowed the Pilatus Bank CEO time to gather up any incriminating evidence and bundle it onto a plane and out of reach of investigators before reluctantly taking any action at all?
The rampant, ongoing use of direct orders to give lucrative contracts to PL cronies, the shocking dishonesty of deals such as the St Vincent de Paul arrangement, the scandalous financial servitude of both Malta’s main political parties to certain companies, and the clear correlation between the donations they make and the contracts, permits, impunity and advantage they gain.
No amount of “new laws” and “strengthened” regulations can change the fact that this government, just like the one before it, has shown nothing but contempt for honesty, integrity and international standards. This government, like the one before it, has used gas-lighting, lies and bluster to try and con the people, and our foreign observers, that there’s nothing wrong with anything they’ve ever done, that “negative” critics and “traitors” are the true source of guilt here.
They don’t get that normal people don’t fall for that kind of thing. On the contrary, that kind of tactic will only ensure you’re even more distrusted.
Prime Minister Robert Abela tries to present himself as an upstanding, honest man. What a joke. Even just the manoeuvres that brought Caruana to office on their own would make anyone’s hair stand on end. The expense to the public purse of getting rid of Edward Scicluna was phenomenal, but nothing compared to the cost to our reputation of appointing such a character to the governorship of the Central Bank.
Scicluna, under criminal investigation over his involvement with the Vitals hospital deal, now has a seat on the board of the European Central Bank. I can’t even begin to imagine what his fellow ECB governors think of him. But I’m quite sure Jens Weidman, chancellor of the Bundesbank, will have had quite a lot to say about it.
Caruana’s panic has kicked in too late. Even if, by some miracle, Malta escapes greylisting this time, the damage has been done. Financial institutions across the world will shy away from doing business with us. Companies wanting to stay on the right side of the US, the UK and Germany will think twice before investing here, or even doing business with Maltese firms.
Our banks have already been feeling the brunt of the pain of operating in a pariah country; soon the rest of the financial services industry, the igaming sector, the IT and software segments…practically every industry in Malta will feel the pain.
The island will learn the hard way that snake-oil salesmen may have some success with ignorant buffoons, but they can’t con normal people. I’ve heard quite a few Maltese people and foreign residents saying they relish the prospect of Malta being greylisted, that it’s only through swallowing this bitter medicine that the country will learn the importance of being honest. But they’re wrong.
Greylisting would be catastrophic for the island. Anyone with family, friends and colleagues in Malta who’d have to suffer the long and terrible consequences should absolutely dread such an outcome.
The tragedy is that even without greylisting, or God forbid, blacklisting, the damage has been done. The people involved have shown themselves to be double-dealing, dishonest charlatans, and everyone who counts will have seen this. There’s no amount of snake oil that could ever magic this away.