How can somebody with demonstrably questionable morals and a casual relationship with the truth become prime minister? How could Labour produce in quick succession two prime ministers so averse to speaking the truth?
In January 2020, the country breathed a sigh of relief. At last and against all odds “the artful dodger “was dethroned. Malta stood a chance of restoring normality, decency and respectability. His young fresh-faced successor carried the hopes of an exhausted traumatised nation on his shoulders. A faint prospect of restoring rule of law, respect for the institutions and transparent good governance glimmered distantly.
Two years later, those hopes are dashed by Abela’s “continuity”. His eternal obligation to Joseph Muscat for securing the premiership prevented him from emerging from Muscat’s shadow. It stopped him from leading his Party through a collective examination of conscience on how Labour veered so badly off track and how its leadership established dangerous links to criminal elements.
Labour needed to evaluate why all its major projects – Electrogas, SOCAR, Vitals, St Vincent De Paule, the Mozura wind farm – were tainted. That was Robert Abela’s job.
But unbelievably depressing revelations about Abela keep surfacing. Malta’s 2020 false hope has been sucked out of its marrow. On reflection, it was all wishful thinking. Abela could never bring change.
He couldn’t fix the devious crookery of his mentor. He was an insider all along. His moral bankruptcy was obvious in his cold calculating inaction while Muscat duped the nation. It was evident in his bizarre decisions – appointing Konrad Mizzi to head an OSCE delegation, reappointing Justyne Caruana, appointing Rosianne Cutajar to head the parliamentary health committee, defending Joseph Cuschieri, protecting and rewarding former prisons director Alex Dalli, rewarding police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.
His attack on the Caruana Galizia inquiry board and his vicious intimidation of the judiciary after the search at Muscat’s home revealed his distorted judgement. His cruel accusations that the Caruana Galizia family were not interested in finding out who killed their mother exposed the level to which he could stoop.
He callously ordered migrants to be held at sea on unsuitable ‘pleasure’ boats for weeks on end. The pope himself was compelled to intervene pleading to him to treat people with humanity and dignity.
Now Abela’s own shenanigans are slowly drip-fed to the public. His €17,000 monthly direct order with the Planning Authority left many gasping. He earned thousands more from Air Malta, ARMS Ltd and the environment ministry, bringing his monthly earnings close to €30,000 – from government contracts alone.
In 2016, Abela made hundreds of thousands through property development in L-Iklin together with Gilbert Bonnici, a director and shareholder of Bonnici Brothers of Burmarrad. Since then, Bonnici Brothers have been awarded several multi-million euro direct orders. In September 2020, Abela inaugurated a €2.1 million investment at their quarry funded through Malta Enterprise.
In November 2020, Bonnici Brothers were awarded a €3.4 million contract to construct a storage waste facility. Moviment Graffitti revealed that the company received another €7.7million in contracts and direct orders. Transport Minister Ian Borg planned to build a roundabout in Burmarrad to benefit their supermarket on ODZ land, destroying farmland and potentially damaging a 500-year-old reservoir. The same company received €6 million in direct orders for the controversial shooting range at Ta’ Kandja in which the NAO found gross financial irregularities.
The latest revelations are the most shocking. Abela had links with Christian Borg, a man charged with kidnapping and believed to be the mastermind of an organised crime group. Borg and his henchmen allegedly kidnapped a man and threatened to cut his fingers off and rape his sister.
Borg is currently being investigated over suspected narcotics smuggling, money laundering and purchase of arms and explosives. Abela was involved in a property deal with Borg. When Abela started receiving questions he admitted having a stake in a promise of sale on a property assigned to Borg. But the OPM refused to answer questions about how many property deals Abela was involved in with Borg, how much money Abela made or whether he declared it.
The OPM failed to explain the gaping price difference between the original promise of sale and the final sale, as it desperately tried to conceal the information, shamelessly claiming the PM “was acting on the principle of transparency”.
On the same day, it was revealed that tax commissioner Marvin Gaerty had travelled to Las Vegas with Christian Borg to watch a fighting match – two months after Borg was summoned by the Tax Compliance Unit for an audit of his company Princess Holdings. Accounts for the company had not been filed. When accounts were filed, the company had €22 million euro in debt.
Gaerty was previously interrogated by the Financial Crime Investigation Department over chats with Yorgen Fenech suggesting trading in influence. Despite being on police bail, Gaerty was bizarrely kept in his position as Tax Commissioner. When police demanded he unlock his phone, Gaerty refused. He claimed that only Robert Abela could authorise unlocking his device.
That phone contained communication between Abela and Gaerty about Bernard Grech. The Times reported that Abela was still weighing his options over whether to allow police to access Gaerty’s device. When Arnold Cassola called out the prime minister’s abuse of power, the police beat a hasty retreat. They declared they didn’t need the prime minister’s authorisation after all.
Despite Gaerty’s compromising text messages to Yorgen Fenech informing him that no action would be taken against him despite his Portomaso irregularities, the police revoked Gaerty’s bail. Gaerty, with his secrets about Robert Abela and his client Christian Borg, was let off scot-free.
Abela’s character is now exposed. As Muscat’s consultant, he was a self-serving parasite swimming through the bowels of the State silently sucking all the goodness for his own repugnant gratification. As Muscat’s successor, Abela now inhabits the realm of indecency, abusing his power by communicating with a tax commissioner who journeyed to Las Vegas with his dodgy client.
After Muscat’s amorality, Malta needed a leader of outstanding integrity and honest candour. In Robert Abela, it got neither.