Have you heard of the man who looked forward to falling ill, since convalescence made him feel better and stronger than before? Neither have I.
But I have heard of the prime minister who speaks as though being greylisted by the FATF is a cloud with a silver lining, since it will showcase how Malta manages to recover its lost reputation.
Robert Abela led the country up the creek and now poses as George Washington, standing tall in the boat, crossing the Delaware River to strike at hostile forces.
One week he boasts he will make Malta the best in the world; the next he complains it’s unfair that some countries refuse to accept his government’s weaknesses.
The three — the US, UK and Germany — are described as “big countries”, as though that makes them bullies ganging up on little Malta. What’s salient, however, is they represent the three largest financial centres in the western world. They have a disproportionate exposure to the risks we pose to the wider financial system.
It’s disingenuous to claim these countries are “only three”. They’re the ones whose opinion matters most. If our government didn’t realise it had to prove to them its political readiness to prosecute and sanction criminals, then Malta is led by people out of their depth.
That’s the conclusion the US, UK and Germany must have reached. They effectively greylisted the personnel responsible for our jurisdiction.
They’ve good reason. Even while warned he had to shape up, Abela’s choice for Central Bank Governor was Edward Scicluna, whose own testimony to the Caruana Galizia inquiry showed he’s unfit to be a watchdog.
Then, when some high-level prosecutions began, the government’s trolls insisted they were cases that preceded Joseph Muscat’s governments, even though some of the alleged money laundering continued during the Muscat period.
If you’re so eager to say the prosecutions don’t concern Labour administrations, you can’t blame anyone for concluding that you’re still wary of catching the crooks enabled by Labour.
The FATF has been clear. It didn’t find enough evidence of political readiness. Malta was judged to have a ‘strategic deficiency’.
That’s a judgement passed on political leadership. But Abela, Clyde Caruana, Evarist Bartolo and the online army are portraying it as an attack on Malta’s sovereignty.
If anyone has undermined our sovereignty it has been the Labour governments since 2013. Our security was gravely weakened by Muscat’s administrations, thanks to the hollowing out of a range of strategic institutions — the forces of law and order, financial intelligence, and checks and balances.
Muscat failed in his first duty: to protect the country. Under him, it became significantly more vulnerable to infiltration by organised crime and kleptocracies. There is a direct link to the spread of corruption, accompanied by the erosion of parliament’s independence and media freedom.
Nothing demonstrates the absence of the State during the Muscat years than how it suddenly sprang to life last year. Under the threat of greylisting, a flurry of investigations and fines followed, dwarfing the numbers of previous years.
Savour that. International pressure, far from eroding our sovereignty, actually prodded our State back into activity.
Labour operatives have the nerve to say that we can be like Iceland, which recovered quickly from its greylisting, while experiencing limited financial impact. Really?
Iceland is among the world’s best in those very rankings where we’ve been sliding fast: democracy, corruption and media freedom. Financial services account for only 5% of Iceland’s GDP, less than half of Malta’s 12% (not to mention the considerable benefits to Malta’s hospitality industry).
Iceland is not in the EU. We are. On anything to do with financial services, our voice within the EU and beyond has been seriously weakened.
In European and global negotiations, a small country always depends on having two things on its side: the letter of the law and the high moral ground. By being careless about one, we lost the other. Thanks to Labour, Malta cannot defend its interests as strongly as before.
Our foreign minister condemns his own government when he talks about how, throughout history, big countries have squeezed smaller ones. If it’s such a universal truth, known to all, then how stupid or criminal (or both) did the Labour government have to be to play into their hands?
The king was never wearing any clothes. Now that it’s irrefutable, his enablers wrap him up in the flag.