The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Schemes ‘managed by Labour Party in government are susceptible to being corrupted’ – Casa

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 17 September 2023, 07:30 Last update: about 10 months ago

Kevin Schembri Orland is reporting from Strasbourg

Schemes managed by the Labour Party in government “are susceptible to being corrupted”, PN MEP David Casa said.

In an interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday, Casa was asked about the disability fraud scandal.

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It was reported that up to a possible 800 people could have received severe disability benefits which they weren’t entitled to. The Prime Minister, Robert Abela, has said that investigations so far have confirmed 160 may have done so. A former PL MP, Silvio Grixti, has also been implicated in the racket for allegedly providing false documents enabling people to abuse of the benefits scheme. He resigned two years ago.

Casa has alerted key officials in the EU institutions about the latest development. He presented the case to the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Vice-President Věra Jourová and to the Chair of the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group within the European Parliament.

Asked by this newsroom whether he received any feedback, he said it is too early and they would need to study the case. "I already had meetings (about it) with MEPs, committees including the Civil Liberties Committee, as well as the Monitoring Committee."

He said that rather than being called a scandal, "it is a scheme organised by the Labour Party to steal votes, to the detriment of people with special needs. There is anger. People are really fed up".

He said there was a time that, when he used to speak about golden passports, the rule of law, local scandals and corruption in the EU Parliament, there were even people in his own party who had doubts about how much he should use this institution to speak about domestic issues. "Today it’s the opposite. Today they are asking, 'what more will Europe do'?” People, he said, are asking this.

He noted, however, that Europe cannot change the government. "Europe cannot substitute our democratic institutions. Europe can put pressure and let’s be clear, with the pressure we have made, together with pressure by civil society and journalists, we managed to stop Pilatus Bank, 17 Black and we closed Yorgen Fenech's accounts in Dubai, so pressure worked."

"But if we, the people, want change, only we can make change through our votes. Europe will not make that change for us."

Casa said that he will continue bringing forward complaints. "That is my duty and that is why we entered the EU, to continue spurring on the democratic institutions we are meant to have in Malta."

He said, however, that the institutions were "hijacked by the government. Only one institution still works well, the courts, the rest of the institutions are hijacked by the government, including PBS".

"How many scandals have you heard PBS report on? I hope that with the Media Freedom Act, this government abuse will stop. There is legislation being negotiated in European institutions that I expect will be approved, so that we will start using our broadcasting systems as they are meant to be used.”

Asked if, due to the disability benefits scandal, he believes an investigation should be opened up into other benefits, Casa said that schemes “managed by the Labour Party in government are susceptible to being corrupted. They should be investigated when necessary”.

“There is nothing that is off limits for the Labour Party. They even corrupted a scheme, intended to help people with severe disabilities, so that they could influence elections and pig out off our backs. Everything they’ve touched is not safe from corruption.”

He also said that the scandal shows that people weren't living well month to month with the current system. "We are arraigning them, the small fish who I think had no other option but to take it to live. But what about the brains behind this? So are the police ever going to arraign them? What are the police doing? Are they investigating? Will they arraign the brains behind the scheme?"

"I will not go into the criminal aspect as the police are meant to be doing their job, now we will see. But when it comes to political responsibility it is my duty to speak. Who will carry political responsibility? When was political responsibility ever carried?”

Asked whether the book should be thrown at the people who took social benefits they are not entitled to, given that they stole taxpayers funds, he said: "Naturally they did wrong. But there are those who are talking and we need to take into consideration that these people are now talking." He said he is not a judge or magistrate and leaves it up to the courts’ judgement.

"What I am saying is that I hope that these aren't the only people arraigned. The brains behind the scheme, those who operated it and led it, must be arraigned."

 

Political situation

Responding to questions regarding the political situation in the country, given polls have showed progress for the PN, but not so much for Bernard Grech, he stressed that the PN is an underdog in the elections next year.

"Prime Minister Robert Abela has the whole government engine working for him, on his policies, covering corruption, giving whatever it wants to people to appease them. We are the underdogs, we have financial problems, our resources are very limited (…) Of course Abela continues to look strong when he has the whole government engine (behind him)."

"When people come to choose, I think they will truly choose change this time. As there is anger and people are fed up," he said, mentioning infrastructure problems and the economy built on cheap labour and the lack of infrastructural preparation for the current population numbers.

"Not even the electricity grid keeps up with the demand. Not even our roads are able to handle such levels of traffic. We have problems. You become frustrated going from point A to point B."

He spoke of his vote in favour of a report for cleaner air. "I hope the government will see to it that we will have better air quality in Malta, as even there, we have a problem of asthma among children. Nobody talks about it. People want change.”

They are also fed up with corruption, he said. “They are angry as today they understand that this theft is from their pockets as well."

 

Migration

Asked whether Malta has taken the right approach on irregular migration, given its hard stance, Casa said that when people are in peril or distress, “we need to go and save them".

He said that in her State of the Union speech, EU Commission President Von de Leyen addressed the issue of human smugglers, “and it is good that through Europol, EuroJust and Frontex, we will fight them”.

He also agrees with Von de Leyen’s statement that Europe needs to have legal migration.

He spoke of the need for long-term investment in Africa. "Most of the migrants are economic migrants. So we need to make it more comfortable for them so that they would not need to cross to Europe."

He reiterated that if there are people in danger at sea then Malta has no choice but to save them.

Turning to the rescue NGOs, he said they are doing a good job. "They are doing the work that Europe isn't managing to do. But there need to be rules and ways to coordinate with the NGOs so that this problem doesn't continue getting worse." One cannot have people continue to die in the Mediterranean, he said.

He highlighted the need to have more legal migration schemes. "We need to sign bilateral agreements with African countries to ensure that we, as much as possible, reduce this danger on our seas. Today it seems that Von der Leyen again placed immigration at the top of the agenda, and that is good."

Given the ageing EU population, Casa was asked if they could make use of economic migration to help. On 1 January 2022, the median age of the EU’s population reached 44.4 years, 0.3 years more than in 2021. It has increased by 2.5 years (on average by 0.25 years per annum) from 41.9 years in 2012. 

"This is why Von der Leyen said we need to have legal migration. We also have sectors that no Europeans want to work in. So yes, that would be an example of how we can close that gap. Even in terms of social services, we won't have enough people working when it comes to giving pensions in Europe. I don't like making this argument, but if we want to be egoistic then we do need legal migrants to help Europe's social systems."

"There are systems that exist in America and Australia. So we can have legal systems and even reduce the risk of crossings at sea. But we need to tackle the issue in Africa first, then we can see about creating systems.”

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