Culture of impunity rebooted – Ranier Fsadni

The return to public life by Joseph Muscat, the disgraced former prime minister, has attracted a lot of commentary. But it has tended to focus on the balance of power between Muscat and his successor, Robert Abela.

There’s more to the episode. It reveals a significant shift in the balance of power between the government and some of its important cronies.

But, first, let’s note that, in becoming President of the Malta Professional Football Clubs Association, the laundering of Muscat’s reputation has already begun.

Several outlets that reported the news referred to him simply as “the former prime minister”, much as they might describe his honourable predecessors. One outlet didn’t go so far but watered “disgraced” down to “controversial”.

All this even though there’s no controversy about his tainted name. The significant corruption on his watch is documented. It is affirmed even by some foreign governments. No European institution, comparable to the ones that gave top jobs to Simon Busuttil and Roberta Metsola, will touch him.

It was a struggle for him to get even this post. Muscat had made clear, privately, that he wanted a far stronger mandate. Only half the clubs voted for him; the rest opposed or abstained.

His appointment was, of course, opposed tooth and nail by Abela, who, according to reports, made it clear to the clubs that there would be hefty consequences if they crossed him. Yet, seven clubs, led by Hamrun’s Joseph Portelli, defied Abela.

It’s not wrong to see this result as a personal victory by Muscat, with Abela as the loser. For obvious reasons, the personal struggle between the two men needs to be reported.

By focusing only on Muscat and Abela, however, we miss sight of the seven clubs that defied the prime minister. The clubs are associated with businessmen; the rebellion was led by Portelli, the notorious developer and Labour insider.

Think about it. A group of businessmen were essentially threatened with sanctions by Abela, who in principle controls the patronage and crony network they need, but they defied him anyway.

In other words, they believed they could act with impunity in the face of the man who threatened to withdraw his unreserved patronage. They must either think he was bluffing or that he will have to back down.

This is a significant change in the informal balance of power. Since 2013, it was difficult to cross the prime minister without incurring sanctions. You needed his blessing or at least his toleration.

Here, however, Abela expressly opposed the choice of Muscat in advance. Portelli and friends went ahead anyway.

The leverage used to be in the hands of the Office of the Prime Minister. This is the first case where, publicly, we can see that some powerfully connected businessmen believe the leverage is in their hands. And they are ready to display it.

An attitude of impunity was previously manipulated by the Labour government in its interests and against its critics. Now, some businessmen are not afraid to thwart Labour openly.

The stakes must be high for the businessmen. So are the risks. Muscat is well connected and intelligent. But the reputation he’s trying to clean up in Malta remains tainted elsewhere. He’s a walking red flag. What he does will attract scrutiny beyond Malta, possibly by investigative agencies.

We still need to see if Abela will, after all, hit back hard. If he doesn’t, then this case isn’t just a matter of Abela losing a round. It’s a sign of loss of control that spills beyond a single episode.

We know enough about the Muscat years to see how impunity developed in conjunction with the weakness of the police force and the office of the Attorney General. It’s taken no time for Abela’s Attorney General to lose all credibility. His handpicked police commissioner is facing a crunch — not just in terms of public criticism but also in terms of officers leaving the force.

The acceleration of events is striking. It took Muscat several years, as prime minister, before he lost control over events. It seems to have taken Abela only two and a half years.


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1 month ago

Dear Mr. Ranier Fsadni,

from my point of view it is rather an extension of impunity, greediness and weakness:

ROBBER Abela has found a continuous weakening of the judiciary e.g. with Victoria Buttigieg an incompetent and/or willing person to take over and also expand the shameful legacy of Joseph Muscat and thin out the judiciary.
Now Joseph Muscat want more …

But ROBBER Abela can not do anything:
He has too many skeletons in his closet to be truly effective against the greedy machinations of Joseph Muscat. 
He can’t even file a tax bill.  And he can not bring Joseph Muscat to the „weak“ court.
ROBBER Abela is done.

Best, Klaus

Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

Our dear Bobby is unfortunately not up to task to clean the mal administration of the Muscat regime.
Is it purely political or easier to close an eye or two?
The case of the Sadeen group being given vast land, with seaview at Smart City for a mere €15,000 when the land is valued at €63 million is a typical case in point.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that the clause that restricted any land or property should only be used for educational purposes. Now this clause has been amended that at sometime or another can the land / property be used for commercial reasons rather than educational has been changed. Now if this is true, then our PM has really lost the plot and his integrity.

Last edited 1 month ago by Francis Said
Marcel Bencini
Marcel Bencini
1 month ago
Reply to  Francis Said

Robert Abela had the semblance of integrity to begin with anf lost none of it. You lose what you have

1 month ago

JP has already been giving the green light to rape the rest of Gozo with yet other mega projects and maybe moving onto another mega corrupt country in the form of Montenegro where he may be able to bribe them to get his way? Will he also be able to get away with the very poor quality finishes his mega projects are known for? Birds of a feather flock together hence the move to Montenegro where like here everything has a price and 1 eye or both closed?

1 month ago

And now, JM’s Portelli seems also to be after Polidano’s Malta Freeport. They are getting bolder, more arrogant, and therefore obviously more dangerous.

joe tedesco
joe tedesco
1 month ago


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