From toxic waste to iGaming

housecardsfall

 

It is a well known fact that the underworld on the Italian peninsula controls vast stretches of the Italian economy.

Some readers would remember the underworld’s waste-management activity that ended in the sinking of some 42 ships laden with toxic and/or hazardous waste throughout the Mediterranean. This was well known to environmentalists but confirmed during the Palermo maxi-processo, when Mafia turncoat Francesco Fonti gave evidence identifying the location of one such sunken ship, the Kunsky, loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste, just off the Calabrian coast.

This network of organised environmental crime is so vast that, at one time, it also dumped toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. The warlords in the Somalia civil war were partly financed by the Italian underworld, which supplied them with arms in return for their consent to the dumping of the toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. Rai Tre’s investigative journalist Ilaria Alpi and her cameraman Miran Hrovatin were murdered in Mogadishu after having successfully tracked down the toxic shipments.

In early 2008 it was identified that buffalo mozzarella originating from some 83 dairy farms in an area near Naples was tainted with dioxin. The buffalo were grazing in an area where the Mafia was controlling the dumping of toxic waste  containing dioxin. When ingested through food dioxin can cause birth defects and organ failure in mammals. Large quantities of buffalo mozzarella tainted with dioxin were withdrawn from the market.

Carmine Schiavone, another Mafia turncoat, spilled the beans on more dumping of toxic and hazardous waste by the Mafia in the Naples area, in particular in the area around Casale di Principe. It has been reported that the incidence of cancer in these areas has skyrocketed as a result of the dumping contaminating the water table.

It is estimated that the underworld has garnered some €20 billion a year in the last few years from its illicit dealings in waste. Add to this the billions from its drug dealings, estimated at another €20 billion annually and you can clearly understand the Mafia’s need to launder huge sums of money.

Two specific areas seem to have been selected for this purpose. One such area was an investment in wind-farms in Sicily. Wheeling and dealing in the Sicilian wind farms was a certain Gaetano Buglisi who, for a time, made use of Malta’s fiduciary services by hiding behind their corporate veil. Last February the Italian Courts sentenced him to three years in jail as well as a substantial fine on finding him guilty of tax evasion.

It is within this context that one should try to understand the iGaming saga in Malta.

In the last few days the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has suspended the operating licences of a number of iGaming operators. Until the time of writing, six operators have been suspended, namely : Uniq Group Limited (Betuniq), Betsolution4U Limited, Alibaba Casino Limited, Soft Casino Limited,   Fenplay Limited and Soft Bet Limited . The MGA did not act on its own initiative but at the request of Italian law enforcement agencies.

In a press release, the MGA stated these licences had been suspended “further to investigations and arrests carried out by the Italian law enforcement authorities in collaboration with the Maltese police. The MGA is providing full support to the relevant authorities so that Malta’s reputation as a gaming jurisdiction of excellence is kept free from crime and money laundering. The MGA is also alerting counterpart regulators in other EU jurisdictions about this case.”

In a further press release issued on 25 July it was stated  “At the time of application (according to the MGA’s records), in line with standard procedures, all directors, shareholders, senior managers and ultimate beneficiary owners of these companies have been screened through MGA’s systems and protocols, using probity tools and national and international contacts and organisations. This forms part of the probity checks conducted at pre-licensing stage and before the actual business model of the gaming operation in question is screened and other control systems are checked and approved. The licensing process also includes independent audits, such as system and compliance audits which are carried out by approved external auditors.”

It seems that the due diligence carried out in Malta is no match for the underworld. It is possibly a case of amateurs trying to keep professionals in check.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna stated that a review of due diligence procedures will be undertaken and changes will be put in place if  required. As a start, he should consider embedding complete transparency in iGaming. Hiding the identity of iGaming operators should be discontinued by emending legislation and discontinuing fiduciary services. This corporate veil is unfortunately being used as a tool by the underworld. As a nation we could do better if we make an effort to keep organised crime as far away from Malta’s economic activities as possible. It is pertinent to ask: how many iGaming jobs in Malta depend on Mafia linked operators.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 2 August 2015

On this blog on the same subject one can view the following :

2009 The eco-threat of the Italian Mafia.

2013 On Malta’s Northern doorstep: the Mafia contaminates Southern Italy with millions of tonnes of toxic and nuclear waste.

2013 Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.

2013 Schiavone’s secrets on eco-mafia operations: when will Malta’s government speak up.

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Fin-nofs, nisfidaw il-mewt

migration routes

L-immigranti miġburin mat-tul tal-kosta tal-Libja jafu li ser jisfidaw il-mewt. Imma f’pajjiżhom m’għandhomx futur. Bejn is-sogru kbir għal ħajjithom, x’ħin ikunu bejn sema u ilma, u l-ħajja ta’ miżerja f’pajjiżhom lesti jissugraw. Il-miżerja f’pajjiżhom hi tant kbira li ma jaħsbuwiex darbtejn biex jiffaċċjaw l-isfruttament tan-negozjanti tal-mewt u l-qilla tal-baħar.

Qed jingħad li ħallsu $2,000-il ras għal-passaġġ bejn il-Libja u Sqallija fuq biċċa qoxra li għerqet. Għalihom aħjar il-mewt mill-ħajja li qed jiffaċċjaw.

X’għandu jsir? Żgur li ma baqax iktar ħin għall-paroli. L-imblokk tal-portijiet minnfejn jitilqu l-immigranti m’hu ser isolvi xejn. Dan diġà sar u bħala konsegwenza kien hemm iktar li issugraw ħajjithom.

Il-ġlieda kontra n-negozjanti tal-mewt li qed tipproponi l-Unjoni Ewropeja hi pass tajjeb. Imma l-iktar li hu meħtieġ hu li l-Libja jkollha Gvern demokratiku li jkun jista’ jgħaqqad lill-pajjiż u jmexxih b’awtorità. Gvern li jkun jista’ jikkontrolla l-kosta u l-fruntieri u jirrispetta lil niesu. Ankè dan il-pass, meta jseħħ, ikun pass kbir il-quddiem, imma mhux biżżejjed.

L-immigranti jieqfu ġejjin meta jkun jagħmel sens għalihom li jibqgħu f’pajjiżhom. Meta l-għajnuna internazzjonali li diġà qed tingħata lil pajjiżhom, tibda tħalli l-frott. Meta pajjiżhom ma jibqax iktar għarkuptejh.

Ħafna mill-immigranti ġejjin minn żoni ta’ gwerra ċivili. Inkella minn pajjiżi fejn in-nuqqas ta’ xita wasslet l-agrikultura f’kollass totali. Il-bidla fil-klima fil-fatt hi ukoll waħda mill-fatturi li qed timbotta lill-immigranti biex jitilqu minn pajjiżhom.

F’wieħed minn dawn il-pajjiżi, is-Somalja, l-amministrazzjoni pubblika tal-pajjiż iddiżintegrat u mhux faċli li tinbena mill-ġdid. Il-komunita internazzjonali – inkluża l-Unjoni Ewropeja – diga ħadmet ħafna f’dan is-sens, imma r-riżultati jiġu bil-mod.  Imma fl-aħħar din hi l-unika soluzzjoni.  Meta jkun possibli li l-immigranti irabbu l-fiduċja f’pajjiżhom mill-ġdid, imbagħad tinstab soluzzjoni dejjiema għall-mewġa tal-immigranti fil-Mediterran li kontinwament jisfidaw il-mewt.

Sadanittant kull min hu irrabjat għall-immigranti għandu jdur fuq dawk il-pajjiżi li jinnegozjaw l-armi u armaw liż-żewġ naħat fil-gwerer ċivili.  Inkella jista’ jdur fuq dawk il-pajjiżi li mhux jagħmlu biżżejjed biex jindirizzaw il-bidla fil-klima. L-immigranti huma l-vittmi f’dan kollu u għandhom ħtieġa kbira ta’ solidarjeta rejali.

Pajjiżna huwa prattikament l-ewwel fruntiera għal dawn in-nies. M’hiex għażla tagħna, l-anqas m’hi għażla tagħhom, iżda hi għażla tal-ġografija li poġġiet lil pajjiżna fuq ir-rotta tal-immigrazzjoni.

Ħlief għal xi mumenti qosra taħt kull wieħed minn l-aħħar żewġ Gvernijiet, meta kien hemm xi boloħ jitkellmu jew irewħu favur il-push-backs, pajjiżna dejjem kien fuq quddiem b’solidarjetà rejali.  Hekk għandu jibqa’ avolja l-piż hu kbir u ma nifilħux għalih waħedna. Għax li nagħmlu dak li hu sewwa m’għandu qatt jiddependi minn kemm ħaddieħor jagħmel jew ma jagħmilx dmiru. Ir-rispett lejn id-dinjità tal-bniedem huwa dak li għandu jmexxina l-quddiem. Hu tajjeb li dan issa jidher li hu aċċettat u li ġie imwarrab il-ħsieb li Malta tista’ xi darba tikser apposta l-obbligi internazzjonali tagħha.

Qegħdin hawn f’nofs il-Mediterran biex nisfidaw lill-mewt w inkunu għassiesa favur il-ħajja. Sadanittant kull għajnuna li nirċievu, merħba biha.

Sharing our responsibilities

lampedusa-letta-e-barroso-contestati

The Lampedusa tragedy was a tragedy waiting to happen. .

Human persons in need of help have been on our doorstep, Europe’s doorstep. The help they sought was not available.

Malta has a government which belongs to that family of political parties, the socialist family, which describes itself as being the champion of the vulnerable and the downtrodden. In migration policy, in just seven months, the Labour Party led government in Malta has failed miserably in living up to its core values.

At this point in time none are more vulnerable than migrants fleeing persecution: in particular Somalis and Eritreans who account for the vast majority of migrants at this doorstep of Europe. The Labour Party in Government is not interested in their plight. It is more interested in a populist discourse to impress its hangers-on. Labour’s populism has diluted its core values  beyond recognition.

Labour’s push-back policy was not implemented due to the timely intervention of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Those who think that  Joseph Muscat’s pushback policy was an exercise in bluff would do well to remember that  when still Leader of the Opposition Joseph Muscat had made statements on the need to suspend Malta’s international obligations if faced with large numbers of boat-people.

Many crocodile tears are currently being shed by those who in the past weeks advocated a hard-line inhumane attitude. Those who advocated push-backs are apparently shocked by what has happened.

Are they?

When we criticise the European Union for tackling immigration inappropriately we are also criticising ourselves as since May 2004 Malta and the Maltese are an integral part of the European Union. Malta forms part of each and every decision-taking structure within the European Union. Together with all the other member states Malta participates whenever a decision is taken.

The European Union needs a common migration policy which recognises that each and every refugee within its borders is its responsibility. The border states like Malta, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are shouldering a disproportionate responsibility which must be shared by all  members states.

So far, in the struggle between life and death the European Union (Malta included) has not opted to give adequate assistance to the living. As a result we are collectively responsible for the Lampedusa deaths. It is useless shedding tears for the dead if we did not respect them when they were still alive.

The Lampedusa tragedy was no accident. It is the direct consequence of the fact that on migration there is still a free for all in the European Union. A common policy is required to give flesh to practical solidarity and bury once and for all the culture of indifference.

The Greens in Europe are all in favour of responsibility sharing. That is, the recognition by European Union institutions that once a migrant crosses the EU borders he is its responsibility. Common borders are not just a tool for the payment of customs duties. A humanitarian migration policy is a must in every corner of the European Union. Crossing the border into the European Union should mean moving into an area which respects every human person, with no exceptions being permitted.

A first step would be amending what is known as the Dublin Convention such that the arrival of a migrant within any of the member states would not signify any more that he is restricted to remain in the country of arrival. Such an amendment to the Dublin Convention would facilitate the movement of migrants within the European Union and, consequently, their applying for refugee status, if this is applicable,  within any one of the member states.

This is the official policy of the European Green Party to which policy Alternattiva Demokratika has contributed considerably through constructive engagement with our European partners. The Greens in Europe are the only European Political Party which has fully appreciated the situation which EU border states are facing. Without any stamping of feet or smelling “pushover” coffee the European Green Party is the foremost proposer and supporter of an EU which shoulders its responsibilities through a policy of migration responsibility sharing.

The others just stamp their feet and indulge in inconsequential rhetoric interspaced with crocodile tears.

It is about time that the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party accept that their approach to migration has failed. They should take a leaf from the policy book of the European Greens and seek to convince their partners in the European Union of the need to share responsibility for migration with the border states.

Whether the Lampedusa tragedy will serve as a wake-up call is still to be seen. The comments from Jose Barroso and Cecilia Malmström at Lampedusa on Wednesday are good indications.

Well Muscat can smell that coffee now.

As published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 12 October 2013

The solidarity challenge

New Deal for Somalia

The boats and dinghies departing from the Libyan coast are a stiff challenge to the solidarity which Malta has traditionally  shown towards all those who required it.

The departures from the Libyan coast are controlled by criminal gangs who are cashing in on the suffering of men, women and children fleeing  from their countries for a multitude of reasons, seeking a better quality of life and fleeing persecution.

The boats and dinghies represent their future hopes. For some it has meant death. Battered by the rough seas some make it to their destination, the Italian mainland. Others end up on our shores.

The number of arrivals is on the rise. There is a limit to what this country can take. But the limit is a physical one as the duty to put solidarity in practice has no limits.

Malta always offered practical solidarity to those in distress as we have always felt that it is our duty to uphold the dignity of all human beings irrespective of their country of origin or race. Offering hospitality is not and should never be conditional on whether others help us in shouldering our responsibilities. We do it as a nation because it is the right thing to do.

There is so much more that Malta could do if we are assisted by our EU partners. So far there has been substantial assistance in monetary terms. This has been utilised to improve Malta’s rescue capabilities as well as in providing decent places where immigrants are housed. But this is certainly not enough.

There has been talk of looking towards the South.  Last Monday Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has also been involved in talks with the Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta as the challenge we face is not just ours, it is a regional one.

The involvement of Libya is not without its problems. Libya, as also emphasisied by Prime Minister Letta on Monday, is not yet a signatory of the Geneva Convention  on the status of refugees. Human Rights, in addition, are not an area with which the Libyan state is familiar yet. Having secure Libyan borders just shifts the problem from the Mediterranean to Libyan soil.

The real solution lies much further south then Libya. It lies in the countries of origin of the boat people whom Malta and Italy have saved from the perils of the sea. Some are Somali, others are from Ethiopia, Eritreia or other countries.

65% of the 1890  boat people arriving in Malta in 2012 were Somali.

The European Union is in fact already acting in this direction. In collaboration with the government of Somalia the EU will shortly be convening an international conference to endorse a New Deal with Somalia that aims to develop a set of key priorities and support the reconstruction of Somalia over the next three years. It is the way that the international community makes good on its promises of support to the Somali people. The healing of the scars resulting from a long civil war takes considerable time.

Through the New Deal for Somalia the EU is assisting the reconstruction of Somalia, an essential prerequisite in creating the infrastructure which is necessary to ensure that all Somali citizens are protected and can partake of an adequate quality of life in their own country. Once the reconstruction of Somalia with EU assistance is in place there will be no further reason for large numbers of Somalis to flee their own country. Some will undoubtedly want to consider returning to take part in the transformation of Somalia, getting it ready to participate as an equal partner in the international family of nations.

Helping Somalia to help herself. This is EU solidarity at its best.

The EU has already helped in training Somali soldiers. It has also invested heavily in maritime security off the Somali coast contributing to a substantial reduction of piracy which has been of international concern for years.

The next steps will necessitate Somalia doing a deal with its global partners to clear its huge financial arrears and put in place international aid programmes to help establish the Somali government’s legitimacy.

The EU has been looking at long term solutions. Unfortunately it did not give sufficient attention to the short term problems which primarily Malta and Italy have been facing. The human suffering generated needs to be addressed immediately.

Malta and Italy should not be left on their own to manage  the impacts which have been generated by migration.  A common strategy to manage the extreme pressures caused by the seasonal increase in the arrival of asylum seekers in Southern Europe is essential  until such time that the long term measures which the EU has initiated in Somalia have the desired effect.

This is the solidarity challenge which the EU is facing. And the EU is not them. It is us as well.

Published in The Times of Malta, 20 July 2013 

Dealing with Environmental Crime

published July 9, 2011

 In late 2008, the European Union, through a joint decision of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, adopted Directive 99/2008 “on the protection of the environment through criminal law”.

Member states had to implement this directive by not later than December 26, 2010. Malta, together with 11 other EU member states, did not comply. As a result, on June 16, the EU Commission issued a warning to all 12 states to comply within two months.

The EU directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law does not create new environment legislation. It aims to consolidate existing laws through harmonising penalties that should be inflicted as well as by ensuring that these penalties are really a deterrent.

Annex A to the directive lists EU legislation (some 70 directives and regulations) subject to this directive’s provisions. This is wide ranging and includes legislation regulating waste, GMOs, air quality, quality of water for human consumption, use of sewage sludge in agriculture, use and transportation of hazardous materials, protection of water from nitrates originating from agriculture, trade in endangered species and many others.

Within EU structures, the Maltese government opposed provisions of the proposed directive. So it is no surprise that this resistance is also reflected in the implementation process. This gives a new significance to the Maltese government’s declarations on the importance the environment has in its political agenda.

During the discussion stage in the EU structures, representatives of the Malta government expressed a view contrary to the harmonisation of sanctions primarily on the basis of the economic disparity across the EU member states.

The impact assessment produced by the EU on the proposed directive had emphasised that, in the EU, there are three areas that organised crime focuses on to the detriment of the environment. These are illicit trade in ozone depleting substances, illicit hazardous waste treatment and disposal and illicit trade in endangered wildlife species. A study entitled Organised Environmental Crime In EU Member States (2003) quoted by the EU impact assessment also states that 73 per cent of researched environmental crime cases involve corporations or corporate-like structures.

Organised environmental crime, which has a turnover of billions of euros in the EU, can have a devastating effect on the economy. There are various examples which we can draw upon. The case of the contaminated mozzarella in the Naples environs in March 2008 is one such example. Organised crime pocketed substantial landfill charges for the handling of toxic and hazardous waste, which was subsequently dumped in areas that were reserved for the grazing of buffalo. The resulting buffalo mozzarella was contaminated with dioxin. The impacts on the mozzarella industry were substantial.

Proof of the operations of the eco-Mafia has also surfaced some time ago when Francesco Fonti, a Mafia turncoat, took the witness stand against the Calabria Mafia. We do recall information given as to the sinking in the Mediterranean of about 42 ships laden with toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste. One of the said ships has been located and identified off the coast of Reggio Calabria.

This network of organised environmental crime is so vast that, at a time, it also dumped toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in Somalia. The warlords in the Somalia civil war were financed by the eco-Mafia. They supplied them with arms in return for their consent to the dumping of the toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste. Italian journalists (RaiTre) who had tracked down the shipments were shot and murdered in Mogadishu.

The dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea can have very serious impacts on Malta. It contaminates what’s left of fish stocks but also, depending on the location used for dumping, it can impact Malta’s potable water, 60 per cent of which originates from seawater processed by reverse osmosis plants.

Given these serious impacts I would have expected that the Maltese government would be at the forefront in implementing the directive on environmental crime in order to ensure that issues of cross-border organised environmental crime are adequately tackled. It is indeed very unfortunate that the tools which the EU provides so that Malta can protect its real interests are continuously ignored. One cannot help but ask why.

Law firm Hugo Lepage & Partners, in a comparative study commissioned by the EU Commission and entitled Study On Environmental Crime In The 27 Member States (2007), repeatedly identifies penalties for environmental crime in Malta as being at the lower end of the scale in the EU. The message that gets through is that environmental crime is treated lightly in Malta. Malta is not alone in this respect: it enjoys the company of a small number of other countries.

Environmental crime should be punished through penalties that are effective and proportionate to the environmental damage carried out or envisaged. It is in Malta’s interest that this is done expeditiously.