PN leader Bernard Grech pledged yesterday he would get Malta off the FATF grey list in three months if his party wins the next elections. He was reacting to finance ministry permanent secretary Alfred Camillieri’s statement that it would take 18 months for Malta to be rehabilitated.
Observers called Grech’s promise “bold”, and indeed, it would have been if the next elections were being held next month, or even next season. But they’re not. And Grech has no say over when they’re called and, crucially, no idea what situation he’d find if elections were held imminently and he found himself having to fulfil this promise.
The latest possible date the elections can be held is September of next year, which would bring us very close to the 18 months Camilleri forecast and around the same length of time that Iceland spent on the grey list after it was penalised in the same way in 2019.
They’re assuming the FATF will treat us like it did Iceland. But there’s no guarantee it will, and indeed, the likelihood is that it’s going to take a lot longer to bring Malta back into the fold of respectable jurisdictions. Grech’s 90-day pledge, even if the countdown does start a year from now, is just as unfeasible as Camilleri’s.
Both claims see a return to respectability at around the same time, after all. And both are irresponsible claims that could mislead people about the severity of Malta’s situation.
Katrin Juliusdottir, Iceland’s former finance minister, speaking at a conference on 13 July about the implications of Malta’s greylisting, said that after her country was taken off the FATF’s grey list, the government initiated a post-mortem, to identify what got them onto the grey list in the first place.
Malta, if it ever succeeds in passing muster again, won’t need to hold anything like that. We know exactly why we got slammed onto the grey list. But if there’s a single Maltese person who still feels it was “unjust”, Repubblika’s gallery of knaves outside the police headquarters on Tuesday and its calls for police chief Angelo Gafa to get moving should have settled that for them once and for all.
Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Lawrence Cutajar, Silvio Valletta, Rosianne Cutajar, John Dalli, Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona, Michelle Muscat, Carmelo Abela, Justyne Caruana. These names, and many more, are the main reasons Malta was put on the grey list.
Their outright criminal behaviour, not only going unpunished, but denied and perpetuated by the entire corps of government, is what enabled and emboldened the infiltration of foreign organised crime gangs into the very fabric of Malta’s hard-won financial services industry, selling them passports and allowing them to leach into every aspect of the economy, from catering to tourism, real estate and retailing.
Prime Minister Robert Abela’s blustering statements about doing everything necessary to get Malta off the grey list have already been proven to be a lie. The FATF made it clear that the reason Malta was greylisted was that known criminals were being allowed to get away with serious financial crimes that threaten the security of the entire international community, who had not been investigated by the police despite clear incriminating evidence, who had not been charged with any wrongdoing, and most importantly, who have not been convicted, jailed or punished in any way.
Instead, they stride about the island brazenly trumpeting their impunity, being rewarded with seats in cabinet, consultancies, lucrative government contracts, ambassadorships and chairmanships of government entities.
We had the revolting example of Rosianne “Nuxellina” Cutajar comparing herself to a flower that grows back after it’s been trampled and posting “life is beautiful” captions beneath photographs of herself on a yacht, in quasi-pornographic positions with her boyfriend.
We have Michelle Muscat endlessly waxing lyrical about the saintliness of her criminal husband, branded 2019’s most corrupt man of the year, enabler, at the very least, of some of the most corrupt deals of any government in any country.
We have Carmelo Abela, accused of being an actual, real-life bank robber, still a government minister, still shamelessly writing pontificating opinion pieces for newspapers that should know better than to publish them.
We have minister after minister exposed as using irregular procedures to pour public money into their chum’s wallets, giving jobs to their paramours, employing their constituents en masse to do non-jobs, doling out direct order contracts in complete contempt of the Auditor General’s rebukes, in utter disdain of the fact that Malta is being scrutinised by eyes a lot sharper and less easily hoodwinked than their prime minister’s.
We have avaricious individuals, the Apap Bolognas, Gasans, Fenechs, Debonos, Gaffarenas and a host of others too numerous to list here, treating the public with an arrogance born only of their confidence in the government’s sleaze-mongering bumpkins’ protection, as they continue siphoning money from the public purse through some of the most corrupt deals in history.
We have John Dalli, the turncoat former minister and disgraced EU commissioner who shamed his entire country by trying to export his sordid corruption tactics to Brussels, now simmering slowly in his own rancid juices, still spitting venom at the journalist murdered by his colleagues and their associates and reminding everyone that he too, is still at large.
Anyone who hasn’t yet watched ‘Storyville: The Great European Cigarette Mystery’ – a documentary about Dalli’s sacking after an investigation by the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) alleged that he’d solicited a bribe of €60 million from snus producer Swedish Match – should make a point of doing so.
The import of the details of the tawdry affair are almost eclipsed by Dalli’s mortifyingly farcical attempts to trick the investigators into believing that he was set up by then President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso.
Dalli claimed to the two Danish journalists who made the film that he’d received emails from a mysterious individual named Maria who said she/he could prove Barroso had been bribed by Big Tobacco. One of these emails actually pinged through while the two reporters were interviewing Dalli. But of course, not being brain-dead stooges, the two soon worked out that Maria was none other than Desperate Dalli himself.
The path back to respectability and the white list hasn’t even been mapped out, let alone paved or taken. All of the above need to be investigated properly, charged and punished, before the FATF will consider allowing this nation of larcenists back onto the world finance stage.
Camilleri posited that it would take 18 months. Abela blustered that he’d appoint more investigators, more judges, more regulators. He’s already wasted a month on more empty rhetoric, lies, continued impunity and a complete absence of any action to address the wrongdoing that dragged this country into the PL’s natural environment of putrid sludge.
According to every survey I’ve seen, opposition leader Bernard Grech is unlikely to be elected prime minister at the next polls. But even if he were, and even if Abela began to take the FATF seriously and started pushing Gafa to do his job, Grech has no chance of fulfilling his “bold” pledge.
Malta’s descent into dishonour has been so all-encompassing that it’s almost impossible to imagine it being corrected. Investigations take years to complete and then they’re often inconclusive. Court cases can drag on for decades, evidence gets “lost”, witnesses fail to turn up.
The FATF rightly said it wants to see the enforcement, prosecutions and convictions. The reality is Malta no longer has enough people with the integrity to deliver those things, and even if it did, there’s no way this could happen in 18 months. Anyone who thinks there’s any quick route off the grey list is seriously delusional.