The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Running for his life?

Kevin Cassar Sunday, 3 March 2024, 08:33 Last update: about 3 months ago

On Friday 16 February a New York judge handed Donald Trump another crushing defeat, finding the former president liable for lying about his net worth and ordering him to pay 355 million dollars. The judge was highly critical of Trump and his two adult sons: “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological”.  Justice Engoron added that Trump’s refusal to admit error left him with no choice but to conclude that Trump would continue to commit fraud unless stopped.

No contrition, no apology, no admission of guilt; not even mere acknowledgement of gross incompetence. That sounds very much like our very own Prime-minister Robert Abela.

After all this time, Abela still won’t acknowledge any errors. He won’t accept how badly Labour messed up, particularly with the Vitals debacle. The lack of contrition and remorse verges on pathological. Instead of humbly acknowledging Labour’s many catastrophic failures, Abela keeps defending his predecessor.  He keeps attacking the judiciary to protect him.  He humiliated himself publicly by admitting that Muscat does as he pleases. Muscat decides whether to contest the MEP elections.  Not the leader, not the party - only Muscat, and his wife. Abela, the supposed leader defers to the former leader and gives him carte blanche.

This is the vice in which Abela is caught. He’s obliged to engage in the most obscene despicable behaviour to defend Muscat. He attacks the judiciary publicly.  He picks on individual magistrates.  He intimidates them, picking on their loved ones - the magistrate’s father and brother - echoing Muscat’s pathetically desperate arguments.

Trump has been charged in four criminal cases.  In Washington he’s charged with attempting to overturn the 2020 election. In Georgia he faces election interference charges. In New York he’s being prosecuted for using campaign funds to silence a porn-star. In Florida he’s accused of hoarding top secret documents in his bathroom and impeding government officials from retrieving them. That’s the reason why Trump wants to be President. He’s running for his life.  Trump has made it clear to confidantes that he’s running to halt the prosecutions against him and to evade jail time.

It’s the US Justice Department’s policy that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted.  If Trump becomes President again he would avoid charges for four years at which point there’d be no hope of conviction. But Trump’s almost 80.  Joseph Muscat is barely 50 and Robert Abela is still in his 40s.

Abela can hope to hang on to power for another term, maybe two if he continues to resort to autocratic measures - capturing state media and piling huge debts on the country to buy enough support to keep him afloat. But it won’t last.  And once he’s ousted, as he surely will, he’ll have to answer for his suspicious actions.  He’ll finally have to explain the provenance of his enormous unexplained wealth.

As long as he’s in power Abela can hide his wealth, conceal the source of hundreds of thousands of euro he’s spending, refuse to divulge who owns the luxury yacht he holidays on, or how he pays for its significant running costs. He can continue to deflect questions with vague comments - the blogs, all linked together, a cheque. He won’t explain his dodgy deal with Chris Borg on the “small Zabbar plot”.  He’ll keep acquiring land and property claiming it’s not new property; it’s just his same old property, despite contracts proving otherwise.

Abela openly defies the spirit of declarations of assets. He cynically and contemptuously refused to state his income from renting his dilapidated property to Russian passport applicants - cryptically referring to Form TA26.  He failed to state how much he’s paid - simply recording in his declaration “prime minister’s salary”.  

Only those who have plenty to hide are so secretive, so shady, so vague. Only those who cannot reveal the truth expend so much energy hiding it.

Evasive, irritable, aggressive, hostile - that’s our prime minister when challenged with hard facts he wants kept hidden. He gets bristly and angry when asked legitimate questions - questions such as ‘where the hell did you get all that money from?’  Or ‘How come you’ve got a penthouse in Marsascala, a massive property in Zejtun, a farmhouse in Xewkija, a large tract of land at ta’ Hanzira, regularly holiday on a luxury yacht and still have no loans and possess 388,568.55 euro in savings in 5 different bank accounts, 25,000 euro in government stocks, 806 HSBC shares and 2100 in Hili properties bonds?’.

This is a man in his forties with just a first degree, no specialised expertise or qualifications.  He’s one of many.  He’s been linked with individuals now accused of serious crimes including kidnapping and money laundering.  He has represented some of the most hardened criminals on the islands.

It’s natural that serious concerns arise over his massive wealth accumulated in such a short time.  Questions arise about how our Prime Minister can spend 180,000 euro on an additional property while earning just 65,000 euro per year without making the slightest dent in his savings accounts.  Indeed his accounts grew by several thousand more and he acquired another 20,000 in government stocks.  Of course people are asking questions.  So should the financial crimes unit, so should the tax commissioner and so should the Standards Commissioner who should scrutinise Abela’s assets declarations with a fine tooth comb.

If we had an honest Prime Minister nobody would be asking questions - about Abela’s yacht, his new Xewkija land, his dodgy deals with suspected criminals, his links to Bonnici brothers.  If he had nothing to hide he’d simply lay his cards on the table and quash all speculation, without resorting to insults.

Abela can only continue with his stealth and secrecy as long as he’s in power.  He can only protect himself and his predecessor as long as he’s in control.

Winning, for Abela, is a matter of survival.  He’ll do whatever it takes to maintain his grip on power.

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