The Malta Independent 17 December 2018, Monday

TMIS Editorial: Prime Minister, you are implicated so you can resign

Sunday, 18 November 2018, 11:30 Last update: about 29 days ago

So the Prime Minister went on record on Friday night saying that he would resign if investigations into the 17 Black web of corruption found any wrongdoing or implication on his part.

Well, there has been plenty of wrongdoing and implication on his part but, as usual, the Prime Minister is playing the game of plausible deniability, a ploy that is now wearing rather thin for any but the most blinkered of his supporters.

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We are not saying the Prime Minister ever had any intention of doing business with the secret company, what we are saying is that he is undoubtedly implicated by allowing these hideous schemes to have been hatched under his watch.

Even if these schemes were perpetrated without his knowledge, the fact that he has taken absolutely no effective action against his errant chief of staff and then-energy and now tourism minister shows complicity to no small extent.

But let’s face it, the Prime Minister’s words are hollow. He will resign as much as he repeatedly said he would resign if that power station was not delivered on time. That was a whole two years late, and he remained on nevertheless.

He even sought to distance himself further from the debacle that unfolded last week when the owner of 17 Black was revealed as power station consortium partner Jorgen Fenech, and after a leaked email revealed the chief of staff and minister planned to receive at least $2 million into their once-secret Panamanian companies from 17 Black and another Dubai company of unknown ownership identified as MacBridge.

The chief of staff himself has admitted that 17 Black and MacBridge were included in draft business plans for his business group ‘as potential clients’. He said at the time that his companies ‘make dozens of business plans such as these’. But he insisted that neither 17 Black nor MacBridge ever became his companies’ clients, that no transactions were ever recorded, and that he had no knowledge of any fund transfers or payments.​

We bet he rues the day he had admitted to that now that the cats are coming out of the bags rather quickly.

But in the meantime, the Prime Minister, obviously keen to save his skin, is simply playing dumb when everyone knows he is not dumb at all.

But, for the sake of accuracy, let us get this straight. 

Questioned on Friday, the Prime Minister would not say if he had even asked his chief of staff if he knew who owns the infamous 17 Black, the company that the chief of staff has himself admitted to having knowledge of and having as a potential client. What Prime Minister would not ask his right hand man such a simple question?

Asked if he had not asked his right hand man about those business plans he admitted involved 17 Black, the company that has been the source of so much consternation for his government over the past year, he said he did not interfere in his chief of staff’s business affairs. What Prime Minister would not ask his chief of staff about such a statement when state corruption of the highest order is being alleged?

If the Prime Minister did not ask these questions, he is guilty, at the very least, of dereliction of duty and, at worst, of complicity.

The Prime Minister also insisted that he was perfectly within his rights to have appealed the wider Panama Papers magisterial inquiry since he had nothing to do with it, and to await the conclusions of related investigations. That may be true, but if he had nothing to do with it, what does he have to fear from such a magisterial inquiry if he has absolutely nothing to hide? Is he speaking of the investigations undertaken by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit that were actually concluded but which no successive police commissioner would dare touch with a ten-foot pole?

If the Prime Minister is not implicated, the only answer is that he is patently bent on protecting his chief of staff and minister at all costs. Either way, the Prime Minister must concede that this all looks pretty bad.

And judging by the way he distanced himself from the situation and playing dumb about his chief of staff’s and minister’s financial machinations, he recognises this plain and simple fact very well.

Something just does not add up here and it would be a national service for the Prime Minister to answer two simple questions: By your own yardstick, if you will not resign you certainly need to have your chief of staff and minister resign as they are certainly implicated. Is your yardstick not also applicable to those who serve you; and, what, exactly will it take for you to do the right thing, not just for you but for the country, and cut these two loose from your circle of power?

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