He was one of those rare people who, despite taking on huge responsibilities, never put a foot wrong. He fought injustice and inequality. He championed meritocracy and fairness. Most of all he loved freedom and hated exploitation. This had less to do with ideology than with amiability and instinct.
His choice was always between humanity and cruelty. Despite harsh criticism, he was right, again and again in the essentials of his judgement – a true friend of just causes.
Of course this was not Joseph Muscat. It was Marquis de Lafayette, a celebrated hero of the American fight against absolute monarchy, colonial bondage and incipient imperialism and the French fight against right wing Bonapartist militarism and left wing revolutionary terror. Lafayette is hailed a “Hero of two worlds” in a recently published book by Mike Duncan.
Lafayette counted amongst his closest friends the leading lights of his age: Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. With Jefferson’s help, Lafayette drafted “the Rights of Man”. What was most striking about Lafayette was that he liked good people and good people liked him. He sorted good people from bad people. And he practically always got it right.
Joseph Muscat couldn’t be more different. Muscat liked crooks and crooks liked him. Muscat surrounded himself with a horde of scoundrels, cheats and criminals.
So many of those closest to Muscat are now facing or awaiting prosecution, being investigated or still being shielded from criminal investigation. In his judgement, in contrast to Lafayette, Muscat was wrong, again and again.
From his right hand man, Keith Schembri to his chat mate Yorgen Fenech, Muscat never put a foot right. Despite being indicted for corruption, fraud and money laundering, Keith Schembri still enjoys Muscat’s support. Yorgen Fenech, indicted for murder and now charged with money laundering and attempting to purchase grenades, cyanide, automatic weapons and 800 rounds of ammunition was Muscat’s close friend.
They shared a private WhatsApp chat group about which Muscat was questioned by the police. Muscat invited him to his private birthday party at the Prime minister’s Girgenti palace and accepted his lavish gifts. Muscat enjoyed Fenech’s generous hospitality at Evian les Bains Hilton in the French Alps. Muscat travelled with Yorgen Fenech to attend Ali Sadr Hasheminejad’s wedding in Florence.
Hasheminejad was convicted of conspiracy to violate sanctions, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering – a conviction later quashed on a technicality. Brian Tonna of Nexia BT, another close friend of Muscat, faces charges of money laundering, forgery and other crimes together with his associate Karl Cini. Adrian Hillman, who Muscat selected as government representative on the American University Board, is charged with money laundering, fraud and other crimes.
John Dalli, repatriated by Joseph Muscat, to be appointed his health consultant after Commissioner John Rizzo was rudely axed, is finally to be charged for serious crimes. Ram Tumuluri, the Vitals frontman with whom Muscat signed a secret memorandum of understanding and then a concession agreeement to run half the Maltese health service, swiftly disappeared as police dawdled with the damning NAO report.
Muscat’s chosen deputy leader and minister Konrad Mizzi was kicked out of his own party with multiple serious accusations hanging over his head – yet to be charged. His other deputy leader Chris Cardona was kicked out too with more disturbing accusations of proximity to hardened criminals. His other transgressions of draining the hotel bar and enjoying the services of the Acapulco facility fade into insignificance.
Muscat chose Joseph Cuschieri, first to lead the MGA and then the MFSA. Cuschieri made an absolute mess of both. At MGA he helped Yorgen Fenech draft a letter to extend his casino licence, then travelled to Las Vegas on a luxury holiday jaunt with the alleged murderer and was snapped languishing on Yorgen’s yacht before slipping out of his MFSA role – instead of being prosecuted.
Heathcliff Farrugia, Muscat’s choice to replace Cuschieri at the MGA, is charged with corruption and trading in influence with Yorgen Fenech – his charges hushed up to avoid tarnishing the country’s reputation further.
James Piscopo, Muscat’s close confidante, was made Transport Malta chief and then Lands authority CEO but was forced to step down after he was allegedly involved in bribery and corruption. He amassed huge unexplained wealth and allegedly squirreled away hundreds of thousands of euro into a secret Jersey bank.
The list is long: Muscat’s bodyguard Kenneth Camilleri who passed on Castille’s messages to murder middleman Melvin Theuma, Muscat’s police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, Labour’s CEO Gino Cauchi, Edward Zammit Lewis, Rosianne Cutajar, Carmelo Abela, Cyrus Engerer.
Muscat was a magnet for miscreants. Having been allowed to clinch enormous power, the swarm of crooks around him siphoned it for their own self-serving nefarious schemes. How did the man trusted with the welfare of his people, who embodied the hopes and aspirations of so many, become the focus of a criminal den in such a short time?
One contributing factor might be that Muscat was an only child. Of course most adults who were single children are well-adjusted honest citizens. But in a study published in 2016 in the journal Brain Imaging and Behaviour, Yang et al showed that single children’s brains differ.
The medial prefrontal cortex, associated with emotional regulation is smaller. This was correlated with significantly less “agreeableness”. Low agreeableness scores indicate stubbornness, inability to forgive, self-centredness and less compassion for others. Those with low agreeableness tend to hold grudges and are often untrustworthy, uncaring and dishonest. The lack of companionship in childhood bestows talents which could well be used for “the practice of deception and lying”.
The real reasons for Muscat’s attractiveness to crooks must be analysed. Labour must conduct a thorough and detailed assessment into how, in its name, so many dangerous rogues could seize the levers of power – led by the hero of the two worlds, deception and greed. One thing is certain – here was no father of modern Malta. No Lafayette.