The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

TMIS Editorial: Muscat and Mizzi must go, or be kicked out

Sunday, 21 June 2020, 11:00 Last update: about 22 days ago

The image of Malta being a country mired in political corruption has only been strengthened over the past days, first with the new allegations emerging from the courts and now with the bombshell Montenegro scandal.

Once again, these claims involve the same small group of people who, up until a few months ago were practically running the country; Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona.

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The Montenegro scandal centres around Yorgen Fenech and his company 17 Black, which has featured heavily in the news and was allegedly nothing more than a vehicle for corruption and kickbacks.

It emerged this week that the company somehow became involved in the shady Montenegro wind farm deal in another case where companies needlessly acted as intermediaries and made a killing from a deal that was ultimately funded by the Maltese taxpayer.

It has been reported that the project was sold off to a Seychelles-based firm and then re-sold to Enemalta for triple the price. In order to be able to buy the shares, the Seychelles company – owned by an individual involved in SOCAR and, hence, the Electrogas project – it borrowed money from 17 Black and paid it back more than double the original amount. Yorgen Fenech was also involved in the Electrogas deal, having been a prominent member of the consortium that won the bid for the Delimara power station.

Millions of euro, the origin of which remains unclear, changed hands and, once again, it is only thanks to the media that this information came to light.

Muscat and Mizzi had staunchly defended the deal, but they are not defending it now.

Now, we are no longer hearing that this project was of strategic importance for Enemalta; we’re being told that the former PM and minister are willing to cooperate in any investigation.

This is, however, the crux of the matter. Will there be an investigation – an effective one – into this latest case of corruption, or will the police let this one slide too?

And will political responsibility be shouldered?

Muscat and Mizzi, having been linked with countless scandals, have no place in the Maltese Parliament.

PM Robert Abela was very clear with regard to Konrad Mizzi and, just as he did with Chris Cardona over claims he was involved in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, he hinted that Mizzi must go. But he made no reference to Muscat, who is also still a part of the Labour Parliamentary Group, and who was PM when this deal was signed.

Over the past few weeks, Abela has made efforts to distance himself, the government and the party from individuals who were facing allegations of corruption, but it seems he is not going to speak in the same way on Muscat. He must have the courage to take action, even against a former PM who employed him as a consultant. He cannot be weak in the face of corruption, like his predecessor.

One could say that Muscat had already paid a political price in January, when he stepped down, but that was the very least he could do.

He should not be in Parliament, and Robert Abela should not continue using his services as an economic advisor.

Malta’s image has forever been tainted, and Muscat is the top figure among the trio that is always linked with this country’s scandals.

Even if he was unaware of 17 Black’s role in the Montenegro deal, he was Prime Minister at the time and the buck stops with him.

The same can be said for Konrad Mizzi, who cannot keep arguing that he was unaware or that these claims are untrue. There is now black on white evidence that a company that was once listed as a target client for his Panama company was involved in yet another scandal.

Both Muscat and Mizzi should have the decency to quit politics once and for all.

If they do not go, Abela should have the courage to ask them to leave, just like he did with Cardona. If they don’t, he should kick them out. The PM has a golden opportunity to truly clean up the party and head to the next election with a cleansed PL.

But it cannot stop there. The police have to get to the bottom of this and any form of wrongdoing must be punished. There are no more excuses now – an investigation has to be launched with immediate effect. Abela strongly hinted on Friday that the police have not been doing their job well, or at all, when it comes to such cases and urged them to investigate and prosecute where needed. They need to wake up and investigate not only this latest scandal, but all others before it too. And it needs to lead to results. This cannot turn into another oil scandal fiasco.

 

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