Opinion: The golden goose

Only eight years ago, Joseph Muscat made Konrad Mizzi deputy leader. In a secret vote, 96.6% of Labour delegates voted for Mizzi.

Muscat’s plans were all going so smoothly. Mizzi would become deputy prime minister and then take over from Muscat as prime minister – and the hospitals’ scam, that golden goose, would keep on laying eggs for Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri forever.

The three now belatedly face the ignominy of criminal prosecution for serious crimes — bribery, fraud, money laundering and criminal association.

Daphne Caruana Galizia broke the story of Mizzi’s and Schembri’s secret companies in the blacklisted secretive jurisdiction of Panama. Instead of kicking both of them out in disgust, Muscat protected them.

Many couldn’t understand why. Now, it all makes sense.

Steward Healthcare paid €3.6 million to Accutor AG, a company that subsequently agreed to pay Joseph Muscat €540,000 euro over a period of three years with the possibility of extending that arrangement.

The same company also recruited Konrad Mizzi.  It paid Shaukat Ali, a close friend of Keith Schembri, millions.  Not just him it also paid his two sons, Asad and Wajid, his daughter and even his two wives.

Shaukat Ali, who siphoned millions of euros from the Vitals deal, set up secret Dubai companies for Mizzi and Schembri, called Akash and Intercare, just one month after the three hospitals were officially signed over to Vitals.

The magisterial inquiry shows that the same Shaukat Ali tried to help Schembri and Mizzi open bank accounts in Dubai for their secret Panama companies, Tillgate and Hearnville.

Muscat must have known all this.  Schembri himself testified that he did nothing behind Muscat’s back in an open threat to Muscat.  Muscat knew everything because he was part of it.

When Caruana Galizia revealed those secret Panama companies, Muscat knew he had to act fast.  He swiftly made Mizzi deputy leader. And then embarked on a damage control crusade.

“No wrongdoing took place,” Muscat told the nation. “Dr Mizzi is within his rights as long as all is declared.”

But Muscat refused to reply to basic questions: Did he support citizens investing in blacklisted secret jurisdictions? Why did Mizzi choose Panama? When did he acquire the secret company?

Muscat also defended Keith Schembri.  He insisted Schembri was right to cede the libel action he had filed against Simon Busuttil to avoid questions about 17-Black.

Muscat falsely claimed that “it is more important that the truth emerged from the inquiry than persisting with the libel against Busuttil”.

Muscat lied that Schembri couldn’t testify in the libel case because he had already given evidence to the 17-Black inquiry:  “If he replied to questions in court, the ongoing inquiry would have been prejudiced or undermined”.

Since when is Muscat worried about inquiries being undermined?

Muscat desperately continued to defend the two. He had no choice. He knows their truthful testimony could land him behind bars for a painfully long time.

Even when things started falling apart, Muscat kept defending them.  Just before he was ousted, Muscat ordered Johann Buttigieg to give Mizzi a €241,000 contract as Malta Tourism Authority consultant.

Muscat’s action was “an abuse of power as laid down in Article 22 (of SIPL Act)”, according to the Standards Commissioner.  Muscat broke the law to keep Mizzi on his side.

Even under intense pressure from his own Cabinet, Muscat protected Mizzi.  When forced to remove him, Muscat kept him as a minister in his office.

The new Health Minister, Chris Fearne, was kept in the dark while Mizzi continued to deal with Vitals. Muscat appointed Mizzi minister again after his 2017 electoral victory.

Muscat was held to ransom by both Mizzi and Schembri. He still is.

As late as June 2023, Muscat insisted Mizzi “did a good job as minister” and was the “right choice”, “a stellar project manager and the most competent person”.

That was after the US State Department banned Mizzi and Schembri “due to involvement in significant corruption”.

“Mizzi and Schembri were involved in a corrupt scheme that included using their political influence and official power for their personal benefit.  There is credible information that Mizzi and Schembri were involved in a corrupt scheme that entailed the award of a government contract for the construction of a power plant… in exchange for kickbacks and bribes”.

On the eve of Schembri’s arrest in 2019, Muscat invited him to his private residence in Burmarrad.  He continued to heap praise on Schembri and thank him for his “service to the country”.

Muscat knows both Mizzi and Schembri can spell the end of him.  He knows that if even one of them cracks, he’s finished.

Just months before her brutal end, Caruana Galizia wrote: “Muscat is not mad or stupid.  Konrad Mizzi has what he needs to blackmail Muscat, and he is either doing so already or Muscat fears he will if thwarted…He has to protect Mizzi and Schembri and give them whatever they ask for because if he doesn’t…”

Reality is catching up with Muscat and co. But there’s one big problem. Malta’s most powerful man is protecting Konrad Mizzi.

Robert Abela is busy undermining the Vitals inquiry and discrediting it. He ordered his entire party to do likewise. Konrad Mizzi must be shielded.  So must Keith Schembri.

Labour knows that if any one of them opens his mouth, it won’t be just Muscat who’s destroyed – it’s the entire Labour party, its government and Robert Abela who daftly nailed his colours to Muscat’s mast.

                           

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6 Comments
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simon oosterman
simon oosterman
26 days ago

Come on, Kevin. Everybody with half a brain knew why he defended them. They were in it together. Egrant was his, directly or indirectly. No other explanation for what happened before or since.

A. Fan
A. Fan
26 days ago

I’ll be very surprised if some of the more marginal players in the case won’t start squealing by the time the US Department of Justice starts to bear down on them with the full force of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in relation to Steward Health Care. Bogus Maltese presidential pardons are not recognized by the US penal system. Then again, maybe they’ll be saved by the great orange fraudster, if he manages to dupe enough people for a second time…

Nicolette Mifsud
Nicolette Mifsud
19 days ago
Reply to  A. Fan

The great orange fraudster wants nothing more than to knock china down a peg or two, how better to do it than to undermine their current global acquisition of foreign infrastructure? Remember who now owns 33% of enemalta?

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
26 days ago

The inquiry by Magistrate Vella shows us one thing. It pays not to leave stones unturned.

Mick
Mick
25 days ago

I have a gut feeling that what is on display at the moment is all for show hatched at Mile End and Burmarrad as a show for posterity. Given procedural errors have already been identified, and the AG and CoP are renowned for ineptitude where politicians are involved in crime, it seems that further development of the charges etc isn’t going to happen. Given that Muscat and others have retained their Diplomatic Passports and privileges and are allowed to freely travel the world doesn’t smell too good. Don’t be surprised if they all walk and some junior clerk in the system gets ten years for a typo.

Paul Borg
Paul Borg
24 days ago

Robert Abela who daftly nailed his colours to Muscat’s mast.”
Very apt………..it looks like SKULL AND CROSS BONES from here.

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