The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Fraud everywhere you look

Friday, 17 May 2024, 15:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

The now infamous last words written in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s last blog post before she was brutally assassinated have been etched into the country’s psyche: “There are criminals everywhere you look.”

While six and a half years have now passed since Daphne’s murder her words can be specified even further when it comes to what this Labour government has been involved with and done in the past few years.

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That’s because the past few months have uncovered fraud, fraud, and yet more fraud at almost every turn.

First we heard of a racket surrounding the issuing of driving licences, where stories emerged of how high-ranking members of the government pressured Transport Malta to help candidates pass their driving tests and obtain a licence.

Then we heard of a racket surrounding severe disability benefits, wherein nearly three hundred people were found to have fraudulently received a total of €5.1 million in severe disability benefits between them, when they were not entitled to it. 

Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti was implicated in the years-long racket, and he has been charged in court together with others with defrauding the Department of Social Security.  He denies all wrongdoing.

Another man charged, a person of trust within a government ministry, has alleged that there were other government officials involved in the racket and said on social media that he had been told by a Social Policy Ministry official that as long as Michael Falzon remained minister, then there would be no “trouble.”

We had the biggest fraud of them all: the concession granting the operation of three hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare and later Steward Health Care being declared as fraudulent by not one, but two courts last year.

The concession was annulled, but that was not before the government in all its prominent ranks stood rank and file to defend the deal and pump more and more millions of euros into it every year.  The reckoning on this case, it appears, is now with us, as those responsible for the deal have been charged in the country’s criminal courts.

And now the most recent fraud adds itself into the list: a magistrate on Wednesday ordered the police to investigate and identify the public officials and entities who manipulated voters into changing their address to an unfinished and uninhabitable Siġġiewi housing estate block ahead of the upcoming local council and EU elections.

In a scathing judgement, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech ruled that there “could be no doubt” that the voters in question had not taken the initiative to register themselves at the specified address, the magistrate said that it was “shameful that they had been taken advantage of and manipulated by people who were entrusted with looking after their interests and wellbeing.”

Noting that the law speaks of the ordinary place of residence in deciding which electoral district voters fell under, the court said it had “seen first-hand that nobody lived there, be it ordinarily or extraordinarily and that the occupants had not even been given the keys to the properties, which were meant to be handed over upon signing the contract.”

It is no coincidence that the Labour Party only won a majority in the Siggiewi local council back in 2019 by a wafer-thin margin of 70 votes. 99 voters were registered in the social housing block.

Prime Minister Robert Abela may well be tempted to blame this on “the establishment” as well, but Magistrate Frendo Dimech was appointed directly by Abela’s predecessor Joseph Muscat.  No way to blame the establishment there then, unless he gets very creative.

As things stand though, it really is fraud everywhere you look – and it’s the country that’s suffering for it, whether it realises it or not.

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