The Malta Independent 24 August 2017, Thursday

The Malta Independent editorial - Swiss Leaks: Where did you get that money from?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015, 07:55 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Swiss Leaks revelations about two former PN ministers, broken by our sister Sunday paper and penned by members of our newsroom, have brought about the downfall (through self-imposed suspension in one case and through suspension by the party leader in the other case) of two former ministers.

There is more to come. The facts obtained so far are still incomplete: Michael Falzon admitted he had money in HSBC Geneva and mentioned the amount, which he says he repatriated but so far does not say when. Ninu Zammit admitted he had money in Geneva, but has not said how much. He did say when he repatriated them, though, which creates further questions, if not for him, for the Muscat government.

This Swiss Leaks revelation has proved to be very different from the usual ‘revelations’ we see in Malta, in that the latter are mostly spins out to get a definite outcome, piloted by a political subject and aimed at getting a political result.

In this case, the Hervé Falciani Swiss Leaks list contains the entire database of HSBC Geneva Private Bank for all the years up to 2007. So not only will this give us the amount of money secreted there by the two ex-ministers but also dates, amounts and maybe details of negotiations with the bank itself.

There may be other Maltese names on the list, for all we know, and it is up to the real authorities in Malta, that is the Commissioner for Inland Revenue, to get cracking and go for them. Although one rather doubts this will happen, seeing how Mr Zammit, for one, repatriated his money with/without revealing the source of these funds.

It is bully for the politicians, Prime Minister Muscat and leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil to urge more revelations but their real role is to ensure that CIR has the right tools and the proper persons to go after whoever has committed a crime. Ditto for the police.

Besides whatever Falciani can tell us, there are also important facets that Falciani cannot tell us, but which are of extreme importance in both cases.

The most important question here is where did those two get that money from? Mr Falzon has said he had professional work connected to Switzerland in the years when he was in Opposition and he put the earnings (or part of them) in Swiss banks moving them eventually to HSBC Private Bank. Mr Zammit has said none of this. So, the question in the title applies to him more.

Both, of course, have to reply to their colleagues, their erstwhile leaders, and the public at large, as to why they did not include this information in the annual returns they submitted to Parliament. And, as has been pointed out, why they sat in Cabinet while a junior colleague was made to resign, without admitting they were doing far worse.

As legislators and also members of Cabinet they passed laws against hiding funds from the taxman, knowing full well that they were doing it too.

The judgement in the case of Mr Falzon is far more damning. At the time when he was working for Swiss interests and secreting funds in the Federation, he was also the editor of the PN English-language paper The Democrat, busily attacking the Mintoff-KMB administration.

Later on he became editor once again of The People and he used to send his journalists to ferret out stories such as the stories now regarding him. ‘Chi di spada ferisce, di spada perisce’.

The movers and shakers, those who normally are the ones to spin, had better look around them and inside their own consciences to see if there is any murky secret that will see the light of day thanks to yet another Falciani, rather than turn and twist this story into a spin of their own.

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