The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Going, going, staying

Mark Josef Rapa Tuesday, 30 June 2020, 06:17 Last update: about 13 days ago

It comes as no surprise that disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is now going to delay resigning from parliament. In court last week, former chief of staff Keith Schembri said under oath that Muscat told him not to let the alleged conspirator in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Yorgen Fenech, leave the country. On Tuesday Joseph Muscat confirmed that yes, he had instructed Schembri to do so.

Why would Muscat get involved and why would Schembri spend close to 30 minutes speaking to Fenech over the phone? In any case, whatever Schembri said did not convince Fenech to stay; Fenech had already sailed out of Portomaso when he was stopped by AFM.

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But what is striking is the unfamiliarity Muscat uses when referring to Fenech in an interview to the Times of Malta: ‘ make sure this guy doesn’t leave’. If you took Muscat’s statement at face value, it gives the impression they never knew one another. However, we know this is very far removed from the truth.

In Christmas of 2014, “this guy” gifted Muscat, a limited-edition white gold Bvlgari watch valued €24,000. Fenech also gifted Muscat another watch valued €2,000 on a separate date. In May 2018, Muscat already knew that “this guy” was already a suspect in the Caruana Galizia case; Muscat signed a warrant allowing the Malta Security Services to tap into Fenech’s phone. But their bro-man ship is plain as day when we recall that “this [same] guy” was one of Muscat’s guests of honour at his birthday party at his then official Girgenti residence in February 2019. Fenech gifted Muscat three bottles of wine which if bought online cost around €6,000.

However, it is what has been revealed by Reuters in the last days which makes one see why Muscat wants to stay on in parliament.

On December 28, 2015, Enemalta paid €10.3 million to acquire the shares in the wind farm venture from a company called Cifidex. Two weeks before, Cidifex had bought these same shares from Fersa Renovables, a Spanish consortium for €2.9 million. Cidifex got the funds for this purchase from a €3million payment into the company by 17 Black, the Dubai Company owned by Yorgen Fenech. From the sale to Enemalta, 17 Black made €4.7million.

At the same time, government advisers Nexia BT were working hard to create offshore structures in Panama for Former Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri. Their main target clients were going to be 17Black and Macbridge. We still do not know who owns Macbridge. From 17Black, Mizzi and Schembri, through their respective companies, Hearnville Inc. and Tillgate Inc. were to receive €2 million.

Muscat says that he has no knowledge of the above. Humour me here. Let’s believe Muscat and say that he had no idea about the dodgy, underground deals that were ongoing in the background. But isn’t the Prime Minister who is ultimately responsible for the conduct and negotiations of his ministers and officials?

And if this is not enough for parliament to immediately demand his resignation or table a motion of no confidence, let’s not forget how Muscat was nominated as the OCCRP 2019 Person of the Year in Organized Crime and Corruption. One would have thought that this ‘award’ is enough reason for Prime Minister Robert Abela to kick Muscat out, but as we have seen with Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi, Abela has no backbone and taking decisions is not his forte.

Abela sticks to Muscat and says that he, Muscat, is not facing the same allegations that Mizzi is facing. Ma per carita, it was under Muscat’s administration that a Minister and Chief of staff opened companies in Panama, that the Montenegro Wind Farm deal was entered into, that a journalist was brutally murdered. It was under Joseph Muscat’s watch that tribalism was taken to another level and that the law courts were turned into a Labour Party playground.

It’s time for Robert Abela to act. Time is running out. As Malta’s grey-listing looms ever closer, as EU and US scrutiny becomes tighter, as a deep economic downturn, for a variety of reasons, starts biting, he has to clean up the veritable mess the Artful Dodger of Europe has left behind him. Abela is dithering because his hold on the Labour party, a few months after his election as a leader, is still tenuous, and can’t afford to alienate his own voters. But this is no time for petty party politics. It’s time for doing, for once, what is right

 

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