Assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s description of Manuel Mallia is as apt today as it ever was.
Barely 48 hours after getting the worst news for the Maltese economy in decades, the PL government decides to stick two fingers up at one of the “baddies” who shafted them. The new High Commissioner to the UK is to be Manuel “cash under the mattress” Mallia, former criminal lawyer and twice-minister under disgraced then-prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Just as the rest of the world, led by the US, the UK. and Germany, kicks Malta out into the cold for failing to do its duty in enforcing international laws to prevent money laundering and funding of terrorism, Muscat’s replacement stooge Robert Abela decides this is a good time to show the UK exactly what he thinks of the rebuke he was handed by the British.
The UK doesn’t like rogue governments whose cabinet includes ministers accused of actual, honest-to-goodness armed bank robbery? They don’t like the idea of envelopes of cash being passed between accused murderers and then cabinet members? They don’t like governments who mollycoddle Ultimate Beneficial Owners of secret Panama companies, even those strongly suspected to be among the highest officials in the land? They don’t like being lied to, hoodwinked, scammed with a host of window-dressing, box-ticking?
We’ll show them. Let’s send them one of our most embarrassing, one of our most outrageous, one of our most scandalous – Manuel Mallia. What a perfect solution to the problem of filling the High Commissioner role and sticking it to the British at the same time.
Manuel Mallia. He with the trigger-happy driver, the criminal lawyer turned minister who announced an amnesty for all prisoners to celebrate his elevation to cabinet – and such an opportune appointment this was, with Corradino, after all, playing host to a multitude of his own clients. Sounds perfect for the position of High Commissioner to the UK.
So what that he failed to declare half a million euro he’d stashed under his bed and forgotten about. After all, we all need a little emergency nest egg, don’t you know. Does anyone remember the provenance of that stash of cash? He’d sold property and been paid in cash, I seem to recall?
Never mind any of those pesky rules about knowing where your buyer may have got that half a million euro. Irrelevant, of course. Forgetting to declare them was just a minor oversight, apparently, rectified the following year and so what on earth is the fuss all about?
€500,000, in cash, “forgotten” about. Sounds like the ideal candidate to foist on the UK, those “unjust” and “jealous” people who, if one listens to Abela and his coven of cackling crows, only voted to greylist Malta out of mean and nasty, unfounded spite.
Honestly, this government’s decisions read like a blueprint for small-minded pettiness accompanied by major scale stupidity and monumental self-harm.
The FATF has given Malta a strict timetable of goals to reach in order to be considered for removal from the dreaded list. Malta is going to have to do more than just pretend to comply this time. The FATF president Marcus Pleyer made it abundantly clear that none of the pettifogging, wool-pulling, deviation tactics Abela and his troupe of performing monkeys attempted were even remotely successful.
The Maltese government’s distasteful penchant for lies, gaslighting, reality-bending ruses has been noted, called out and penalised. Do Abela and his gang want to continue covering up for their corrupt, money laundering tax evading colleagues? Well, the FATF has told them, and the rest of us, that governments who allow such behavior, and the people who enable it, are not welcome at the inn.
We’ve been booted out, like a bunch of football louts from the one crucial game in town. Not allowed back in unless we mend our ways. And just like a bunch of delinquent yobs on a vengeance spree, we bluster and spit about it being “unfair” and “unjust” – and let’s find a way to get back at them, and show them what we really think of them.
Manuel Mallia appears to be their equivalent of slashing the ref’s tyres or keying the umpire’s car. This utterly compromised ministerial disaster, forced to resign because of an actual gunshot attack by his driver on an innocent motorist that he then tried to cover up, is going to be introduced to the Queen of England as the best Malta can produce to represent her.
This shady, unpleasant little man is going to strut around the embassies of London, carrying an invisible but glaring banner over his head reading: alleged tax evader, accepter of unaccounted-for €500,000 in cash, stasher of bank notes under the bed, protector of trigger-happy, dishonest policemen-drivers who lie to switch blame to their victims, former criminal lawyer who gave all his old clients the equivalent of a bottle of expensive champagne on being appointed home affairs minister, the cabinet member in charge of the police who used the members of the police force (anyone else remember this?) as waiting staff at an event held early on in the 2013 legislature.
It’s impossible to see this as anything other than a calculated offence to the UK. This is a deliberate slight that can and will only be seen as a mean-spirited backwards kick to the British for having been one of the three heavy-hitters to stand their ground on Malta’s shameful non-compliance with crucial international rules.
This, like the chorus of “not fair!” from Abela and his coven, is stupid, ill-conceived and dangerous. Being greylisted is a catastrophe for Malta and its economy. We should be attempting to show those who voted against us that we have listened, that we will act, that we will push all those who are compromised in government and around it into the arms of justice and prove to the world that we can clean up this mess.
The last thing we should be doing is presenting as our new High Commissioner a man so shrouded in scandal that even Muscat eventually shied away from him.
In every other civilised country in the world, there still exists such a thing as polite company. Polite company excludes criminals, shady characters, liars, cheats – anyone who might embarrass or compromise those he meets. Ambassadors and High Commissioners, from most countries, sit at the apex of most societies. Sending a man who would be shunned in any sort of decent gathering to represent our country among the most respected of polite society in London is not only a disgrace, it’s an unforgivable insult. And, like everything this PL government does, it will come back to haunt us.