Disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi, one of the evil geniuses behind the great Electrogas scam, is scheduled to face a grilling on Wednesday from Opposition MPs probing the murky circumstances behind the scandalous power station project.
The shamed MP, catapulted to power from nowhere by failed former prime minister Joseph Muscat in 2013, formed part of the triumvirate of crime that drove Muscat’s time in power – Muscat, Mizzi and accused financial criminal and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Together, this trio of miscreants set in train their famous “roadmap” to personal enrichment that saw them, and their like-minded, impunity-enabled colleagues, ransack the nation’s assets, sell its very identity and shred its reputation across the world.
The ease with which he and his accomplices implemented their schemes and have, despite having been exposed, been allowed to get away with their crimes, unpunished and largely unsanctioned, bar losing their positions, is costing Malta dear. The failure to properly investigate and prosecute individuals accused of corruption and money laundering was cited as one of the main reasons for Malta’s greylisting in June this year by the Financial Action Task Force.
Exposed in 2016 by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as the owner of a secret Panama company opened just days after Labour assumed power in 2013, Mizzi was involved in most of the major scandals of the past eight years: his roles in the power station and SOCAR gas supply rackets, the Vitals hospital con and the Montenegro windfarm swindle being just a few examples.
He’s been questioned before. He was ordered to testify before the public inquiry into the assassination of Caruana Galizia and he was arrested and interrogated by the police in November 2020 and again in February 2021.
What happened behind the doors of the Economic Crimes Unit remains a mystery. But we do know what happened at the public inquiry: he refused to answer more than 100 questions put to him, responding instead with a pathetic, self-serving statement in which he whined about having been made the “victim of a political assassination” and whimpered that, like Eva Peron, everything he’d done had been done out of love for his people.
“My only goal was to help people,” he said while stonewalling questions about emails detailing plans for his secret Panama company to receive €5,000 a day from a Dubai company, 17 Black, belonging to Electrogas shareholder Yorgen Fenech – now accused of masterminding the brutal killing of Caruana Galizia.
“I simply worked for the best interests of the country and never took any kickbacks of rewards,” he said. And anyway, “I always got the go-ahead from the prime minister”.
Forced to resign after the 2019 revelations about the extent of the Montenegro windfarm scandal, Mizzi has stubbornly hung on to his parliamentary seat, despite being booted out of the Labour Party parliamentary group.
According to parliamentary familiars, he skulks about in the shadows of parliament, slithering in to sign the attendance register and then disappearing fast, before having to face anyone.
One could almost feel sorry for him until one remembers that Malta’s best and bravest journalist was murdered in order to cover up the massive corruption at the heart of Mizzi’s pet projects – corruption that he’s been proven to have been involved in, that he planned from before Labour even got into office in 2013, and that he had every intention of continuing to indulge in if only Caruana Galizia hadn’t ripped everything apart for him.
His greed appears to have been as insatiable as that of his best buddies, Muscat and Schembri. Not content with siphoning millions of euros out of the public purse, to say nothing of committing the Maltese public to some of the worst deals ever made in the history of governments, he also sought a little side-income for his wife.
Alternative revenue streams, as they’re called in business circles. Just in case the main sources of cash dry up, or get found out, it’s always wiser to diversify.
The list of sordid deals Mizzi is linked with is astonishing. Apart from the Vitals hospital debacle, the Montenegro windfarm, the Electrogas power station and related LNG terminal that he’ll be grilled about at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday, he’s also been exposed as having been involved in plans for a shady offshore Malta-China investment entity involving his wife Sai, and Macbridge-linked Cheng Chen, who brokered the part sale of Enemalta to Chinese State-owned Shanghai Electric Power, and who was also involved in the Montenegro swindle.
And yet, Mizzi proclaims innocence. Just like his erstwhile best buddy Joseph Muscat, despite being caught literally red-handed, he continues to evade justice, dodge questions and stonewall enquiries.
Wednesday’s PAC hearing finally brings Mizzi back into the frame, after many months in which he’s been allowed to fall off the radar. The failure of the police force, so far, to take decisive action on Mizzi has made it a laughing stock around the world and helped push the country into global ridicule and, worse, pariah status.
Whether PAC chairman and PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami and his colleagues will be able to break through Mizzi’s brick-wall defences and finally get some answers from one of the main architects of Malta’s disastrous fall from grace is anyone’s guess. But Mizzi should remember, as he prepares to face the committee, that his tactics to frustrate those seeking justice are as transparent as the blushes that rush to his cheeks whenever he lies.
He no longer fools anyone. It’s only a matter of time before he does have to answer for his many alleged crimes. One by one, his protectors have been stripped away, and the day he faces his accusers in court will come. And the longer he attempts to escape that day of reckoning, the harsher it will be. He’s been playing the Maltese public for fools for far too long, and that’s never a wise thing to do.