Malta deserves better

Reading through the reports on the testimony of Melvin Theuma – who turned state evidence in the criminal investigation on Daphne Caruana Galzia’s assassination – all of us feel shocked and betrayed.

We are shocked by the ruthlessness displayed and we feel betrayed by Joseph Muscat, who put his faith in a bunch of criminals. Malta certainly deserves better – much better, in fact.

As names of various individuals and their actions were being mentioned in the magistrate’s hall, one lingering question is whether these individuals were aware of how their specific action fitted into the general jigsaw puzzle. In addition, what did the boss know about what was going on around him? Was he kept in the dark by his underlings, or was he given discreet briefings?

As yet there is no answer:suspicions are just suspicions. They will, however, linger on until interrogation marks are resolved. In time, we may get to know more, especially when all the rats have fled the sinking ship.

This nation will not rest until all is known, because our trust has been betrayed.

The facts as to who commissioned the assassination and who carried it out are becoming clearer. It is also being established without a shadow of a doubt that the interrogation rooms at Police Headquarters would have more from the functions of a sieve that the secure place one would expect them to be.

In his testimony, Melvin Theuma shocked quite a few people when he stated that he was aware of the planned police raid at the Marsa potato shed days before it was actually carried out. In fact, he stated that he was instructed by the master-mind to alert those who carried out the assassination to this important matter. He was even aware when Vincent Muscat – il-Koħħu – started spilling the beans.

I find it hard to believe that the police tried to sabotage their own investigations. There were others who may have had an interest in sabotaging these investigations from the sidelines. Most probably they are still around, with a visible silhouette that inconclusively indicates their identity.

Likewise, what is the purpose of tapping phones if the person under observation is alerted? Yorgen Fenech specifically stated in the witness box on Thursday that he was alerted by Keith Schembri to the fact that his electronic communications were being monitored.

This is the background which compelled a helpless Cabinet to demand an answer as to why Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, was not properly investigated. A proper interrogation of Mr Schembri would undoubtedly lead to results if it can be done without Joseph Muscat breathing down the necks of the police force. This is an important reason why Joseph Muscat should resign with immediate effect: to ensure that it is not in any way possible for him to protect his friend Keith Schembri.

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should, however, be aware that they have directly contributed to the development of this crisis, both individually as well as collectively as the Cabinet, because they failed to take decisive action regarding the publication of the Panama Papers. Their failure to act at that point in time was a clear signal that anything goes.

The law should apply to everyone. This, however, is not the case because so far Keith Schembri has been lurking in the shadows for far too long. In a national address last Tuesday, President George Vella implored us to be rational and not emotional in this very difficult time. Malta deserves better. It is what we should strive for.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 December 2019

Discount tat-Times bejn il-Lombard u l-Laiki

F’artiklu dalgħodu t-Times of Malta ħabbru li ftehim għall-biegħ tal-ishma fil-bank Malti Lombard Bank Malta plc li kellu l-bank Ċiprijott magħruf bħala Laiki Bank weħel, u li dawk li ssottomettew offerti għal dan il-bejgħ ta’ kważi 50% tal-ishma tal-bank ma jafux x’inhu jiġri.

Fil-gazzetta stampata, t-Times of Malta qaltilna li dawn l-ishma kellhom valur ta’ €100 miljun filwaqt li meta l-artiklu tqiegħed online dan il-valur niżel għal €50 miljun! Imkien ma hemm spjegazzjoni għal dak li ovvjament hu żball tal-gazzetta.

Il-Laiki Bank li ismu propju hu Cyprus Popular Bank Public Co Limited għandu 49.01% tal-ishma tal-Lombard u ċjoe ftit iktar minn 21.65 miljun sehem. Meta wieħed iqies li l-aħħar bejgħ fil-borza ta’ dawn l-ishma kien bil-prezz ta’ €2.20-il sehem, dawn  għandhom valur ta’ madwar €48 miljun, qabel ma jitqies żieda ta’ premium minħabba li l-bejgħ iwassal għal kontroll tal-bank.

Ikun tajjeb li dan il-bejgħ isir bi trasparenza kif jeżiġu l-liġijiet tal-pajjiż.

L-irċevuta tal-Bank of Vassallo


Mela issa nafu li l-Bank of Vassallo ġabar lura flusu. Dawk il-250,000 li kien silef lill-kumpaniji kummerċjali tal-Partit Nazzjonalista. Skond rapport fil-gazzetti tal-lum intqal li dan is-self ilu li tħallas lura minn Awwissu li għadda.

Mhux magħruf jekk tħallsux interessi fuq is-self. Fil-fatt l-aħbar kienet li tħallsu il-250,000. Imkien ma issemmew il-ħlas ta interessi. Probabbilment li dan sar minħabba li ma tħallsux flus. Sissa ħadd għadu ma qal jekk l-interessi tħallsux fxi forma oħra. Fkaz li dan sar ma naħsibx li ser ikun hemm xi irċevuta.

A Christmas carol for Jason Azzopardi



Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Jason Azzopardi is haunted with scenes from his past. Scrooge had to deal with the Ghost of Christmas Past while Jason has been spotlighted by the Auditor-General in three separate reports. These deal with issues forming part of the political responsibilities which he shouldered when part of the Lawrence Gonzi Cabinet.

The first report was presented one year ago and dealt with the issuance of encroachment permits on the eve of the 2013 general election.  The Auditor-General then commented on Minister Jason Azzopardi’s intervention in the issuance of encroachment permits, emphasising that his intervention was “unwarranted”.

Pompous as ever, Jason Azzopardi insisted that he acted within the parameters of the law. He was not capable of recognising that he erred. Nor was he publicly chastised in any way by his own political party which has called for everybody’s resignation, except his own.

Two other reports were published by the Auditor-General last week.  Both deal with government land: its acquisition in one case, its transfer in another.

The first report investigates the acquisition of 233, 236 and 237, Republic Street Valletta.  The Auditor-General, in this investigation identified significant shortcomings in the process of negotiation, critically and negatively conditioning Government’s negotiating position. “This serious shortcoming,” states the Auditor-General, “was raised in concerns raised by the Permanent Secretary,” who was over-ruled.

Notwithstanding the corrective measures subsequently taken, the process remained flawed. This, emphasised the Auditor-General, represented a fundamental weakness in the process of negotiation (with HSBC), “effectively limiting Government’s bargaining power”.  Bad governance at its worst!

The second report deals with the investigation on the transfer of land at Ta’ L-Istabal, Qormi.   The Auditor-General concluded that “failure in terms of good governance, to varying degrees, is a recurring theme that emerged” throughout his review of the matter. The Auditor-General also noted “extraordinary haste” when as a result of problems being identified authorisations were obtained and contracts signed in a matter of two days.

The Auditor-General lists a number of public officers as being responsible for the mess created when conditions attached to a contract concerning government property were cancelled illegally without Parliament’s approval in terms of legislation regulating the disposal of government land.

Describing this mess, the Auditor-General states that he “did not find any direct evidence of political pressure exerted in the processes reviewed.” The emphasis obviously is on the words “direct evidence” as reading through the report it is amply clear that a selection of the top brass within the civil service would not act in such blatant defiance of the law unless they had at least tacit approval of the holders of political office to which they were responsible. The civil service officials mentioned by the Auditor-General as being directly responsible are: The Director General, the Notary and the Assistant Director Contracts of the Government Property Division.

The Auditor-General makes this very important consideration: “ …………… an element of political pressure was asserted by the Chair Vassallo Builders Group Ltd, who alleged that Marsovin Ltd had prior agreement with the ‘Minister’ and the GPD. The Director Marsovin Group Ltd negated this allegation, as did the Minister of Finance, the Economy and Investment and the Parliamentary Secretary for Revenues and Land, who indicated that they were not aware of the case at the time. Queried in this respect, the Chair Vassallo Builders Group Ltd indicated no knowledge of who the ‘Minister’ was. While the NAO cannot rule out pressure being exerted by any of the aforementioned, or possibly by other persons who did not come to this Office’s attention, the facts of the case render immediately evident that pressure was in fact exerted to the detriment of Government’s interests.”

Ultimately the responsibility for this mess lies on Jason Azzopardi’s lap. He has a lot of pending explanations. He will obviously not resign as clearly he only pays lip service to good governance.

In addition, this report from the Auditor-General possibly throws some light on another incident: the loan of €250,000 by a certain Nazzareno Vassallo to the PN’s commercial arms on the eve of the 2013 general elections. We were then informed that the loan was of a commercial nature on commercial terms.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How can anyone believe Jason Azzopardi and his political party preaching adherence to good governance when as recently as 2012 they made a mess on all that they could lay their hands on?

Referring to Joseph Muscat’s gross administrative incompetence and the scandals popping up every other day is no solution. The more we unravel from the past the more clear it becomes that both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party, each in its own way, as a result of their shady methods of operation, cannot be trusted with the reins of power.

published in The Malta Independent : Tuesday 27 December 2016

The financing of Fawlty Towers

Townsquare.Fawlty Tower

The saga of the Mrieħel and the Townsquare towers is now entering a new phase, with the planning appeal stopwatch due to start ticking shortly –  most probably towards the end of the month. It is known that, so far, Sliema Local Council and a number of environmental NGOs will be appealing against the 4 August decision of the Planning Authority to approve the “Fawlty Towers” at Mrieħel and Townsquare Sliema .

Financing of the projects is next. The banks cannot increase their already substantial exposure to loans that are dependent on building speculation. Consequently, the developers will inevitably have to seek the involvement of private citizens and, possibly, institutional investors. Most probably, the process for financing the projects has already commenced; it will involve the issuing of bonds to the public and will normally be sponsored by a bank and a stock-broking agency.

The bank or banks and stockbrokers sponsoring the bond issue will have to ensure that the bonds are subject to an “appropriateness and suitability testing” subject to such direction as the Malta Financial Services Authority  may consider necessary and suitable. Also, in the light of past local unpleasant experiences, the Authority will undoubtedly be guided by the need to ensure  that prospective investors fully understand the inherent risks of the proposed investments.  It will also ensure that detailed information is published in the form of a suitable prospectus in which the small print is both legible and understandable.

Those who finance the high-rise projects should shoulder responsibility for their impact together with the Planning Authority and the developers. They will potentially make it happen, so they should carry the can. It is important to get this message through: those who will invest in the Gasan and Tumas bonds intended to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  should receive more than a monetary return on their investment. The moment they sign up they will also assume co-responsibility – with the developers, the Planning Authority, the bank or banks and the sponsoring stockbrokers – for this projected development .

Word is going around on the need to boycott the services and products placed on the market by the Gasan and Tumas Groups. Journalist Jürgen Balzan, writing in Malta Today described these services and products as being wide-ranging (hotels, car-dealerships, gaming, finance and property) which easily impact on the daily life of a substantial number of Maltese citizens. However, such a boycott’s only link with  the “Fawlty  Towers”  would be through the owners.  It would be preferable for a boycott to have a direct link with the offensive action.  In this context, the forthcoming bond issue to finance the “Fawlty  Towers”  presents itself as a suitable opportunity.

A boycott is a non-violent instrument of protest that is perfectly legitimate in a democratic society. The boycotting of the forthcoming bond issue would send a clear message that people will not be complicit in further ruining the  urban fabric of Sliema and ensure that development at Imrieħel is such that the historic landscape is fully respected.

A social impact assessment, if properly carried out, would have revealed the apprehensions of the residents in particular the residents on the Tignè peninsula. But, unfortunately, as stated by Sliema Green Local Councillor Michael Briguglio, the existing policy-making process tends to consider such studies as an irritant rather than as a tool for holistic management and community participation.

We have had some recent converts on the desirability of social impact assessments, such as Professor Alex Torpiano, Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment at the University of Malta. Prof. Torpiano, in an opinion piece published by the Malta Independent this week, stressed that spatial planning in Malta needs a social-economic dimension. Unfortunately, I do not recollect the professor himself practising these beliefs as the leading architect in the MIDI and Cambridge projects on the Tignè peninsula,  a stone’s throw from Townsquare!

Investing in this bond issue is not another private decision: it will have an enormous impact on the community.

Responsibility for this ever-increasing environmental mess has to be shouldered by quite a few persons in Malta. Even the banks have a very basic responsibility – and not one to be shouldered just by the Directors: the shareholders should also take an interest before decisions are taken and not post-factum.

I understand that the Directors of APS Bank have already taken note of the recent  statements regarding the environment by  Archbishop Charles Scicluna. As such, it stands to reason that APS will (I hope) not be in any way associated with the financing process for the “Fawlty  Towers”.  However, there is no news as yet from the other banks, primarily from the major ones – ie Bank of Valletta and HSBC.

This is a defining moment in environmental action in Malta. It is time for those that matter to stand up to be counted – and the sooner the better.

published by the Malta Independent on Sunday – 21 August 2016

Il-qrun fil-ħajja pubblika

Alfred Mifsud

L-allegazzjonijiet dwar Alfred Mifsud huma serji ħafna. Imma huma allegazzjonijiet. Huwa diffiċli ħafna biex minn dak magħruf s’issa tikkonkludi dwar dak li jista’ jikkonvinċi lil Qrati bħala li huma l-fatti.

Dak li qalet Anna Zelbst u li ġie rappurtat verbatim fil-blog ta’ Daphne Caruana Galizia irid jgħaddi mill-għarbiel tal-kontro-eżami fil-Qorti u diffiċli ħafna biex minn issa tifhem kif din ser tirreaġixxi għall-mistoqsijiet li ser isirulha. Id-dubji li ser jinżergħu għall-verżjoni tagħha tal-fatti bla dubju ser jagħtu spjegazzjoni alternattiva għal dik li twasslet s’issa.

Jibqa’ l-fatt li l-Gvern dam ħafna biex irreaġixxa għal dak li ntqal, l-istess bħalma għamel f’każi oħra biex issa qed ikun ċar iktar minn qatt qabel li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat jagħti każ ħafna iktar tal-ħbiberiji u tal-lealtà politika milli tat-tbajja’ (reali jew mhux) fuq l-integrità tal-kandidati li huwa jmexxi l-quddiem għal ħatriet ta’ importanza nazzjonali.

Kienet korretta għaldaqstant il-Membru Parlamentari Kristy Debono meta l-bieraħ fil-Parlament qalet li dan kollu jfisser ukoll li Alfred Mifsud għandu jkun sospiz mill-post l-ieħor li qed jokkupa bħalissa, dak ta’ Deputat Gvernatur tal-Bank Ċentrali.

Għal uħud jista’ jidher inġust li rapport fuq blog jingħata din l-importanza kollha u li jwassal għal dawn il-konsiderazzjonijiet. Jekk wieħed jillimita ruħu għal analiżi superfiċjali jista’ jasal għal din it-tip ta’ konklużjoni. Imma jekk taħseb ftit iktar forsi tirrealizza li dan kollu jfisser li l-Gvern ta’ Muscat m’jagħmilx eżami sewwa tal-kandidati li jkun fi ħsiebu jmexxi l-quddiem b’mod partikolari għall-karigi sensittivi u ta’ importanza nazzjonali.

Filwaqt li l-kollass ta’ relazzjonijiet personali m’humiex u m’għandhomx ikun kriterju għal dawn id-deċiżjonijiet, sfortunatament il-mod kif iġibu ruħhom persuni f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi joħorġu (f’mument kritiku) riflessjoni tal-karattru veru tagħhom. Għax filwaqt li l-ħajja privata tal-persuni fil-ħajja pubblika għandha tibqa’ privata tajjeb li nifhmu li s-serjetà u l-integrità tal-persuna huma riflessi ankè fil-ħajja privata tiegħu jew tagħha.

Hija din il-problema tal-ħatra ta’ persuni bħal Alfred Mifsud.

Il-Kaz ta’ Alfred Mifsud : spjegazzjonijiet (pubbliċi) meħtieġa malajr



Mhux Simon Busuttil biss huwa imnixef b’dak li qed jintqal fil-konfront ta’ Alfred Mifsud li hu nominat biex ikun il-Gvernatur tal-Bank Ċentrali minn l-1 ta’ Lulju 2016.

F’kummenti ippubblikati band’oħra Alfred Mifsud qal li l-allegazzjonijiet (li dwarhom qal li ppreżenta libel) huma frott strateġija ta’ tpattija u joriġinaw minn sħubija (presumibilment fin-negozju) li ħalliet effett ta’ qrusa. Hu jiddeskrivi il-kwistjoni b’dan il-mod : “revenge trash from a bitter ex partner”.

L-akkużi huma ta’ serjetà kbira għax jallegaw korruzzjoni fuq skala mhux żgħira.

Hemm ħafna spjegazzjonijiet li huma meħtieġa malajr. Minn Alfred Mifsud, minn min qed jagħmel l-allegazzjonijiet kif ukoll mingħand il-Pulizija li jingħad li ilhom jafu dwar il-każ mill-2006 u s’issa meta diġa għaddew 10 snin jidher li ma ħassew il-ħtieġa li jagħmlu xejn.

Il-bank illegali (f’Malta) u l-awdituri

underground bank 100316

L-aħbar tat-Times illum dwar bank illegali fiz-Żurrrieq hi waħda inkwetanti. Dan il-bank ilu jopera is-snin u ħadd ma nduna b’xejn.

Il-kumpanija li kienet qed topera dan il-bank tul dawn is-snin qed jingħad li ġabret mal-€10 miljun mingħand in-nies li riedu jinvestu u silfithom lil oħrajn.

Tajjeb li issa nstema’ l-allarm, imma, għaliex issa? Għaliex inżamm is-skiet għal dawn is-snin kollha u l-awtoritajiet ma ndumaw b’xejn? Possibli li ħadd ma kien jaf xejn?

Ikun interessanti li xi ħadd jinfurmana jekk l-awdituri ta’ din il-kumpanija qatt irrappurtawx dwar din il-ħidma illegali. Possibli li din il-ħidma tant kienet moħbija b’mod professjonali li qatt ħadd ma nduna b’xejn? Daqsxejn diffiċli biex nemminha din.

Għax jekk din il-ħidma ta’ bank illegali fiż-Żurrieq ħadd ma xamma, l-anqas l-awdituri fuq numru ta’ snin, jiena ma għandix idea kif audit li jsir f’Malta jista’ qatt ixomm pagamenti ta’ commissions li jkunu saru minn xi pajjiż imbiegħed ………… bħal per eżempju l-Azerbaijan.

Għax f’dan il-pajjiż, min irid jaħbi l-affarijiet isibha faċli, anke taħt imnieħer l-awtoritajiet. Aħseb u ara jekk ikunu depositati barra mill-pajjiż, il-bogħod ħafna. Liema audit ser isibhom?


Xejn m’hu xejn: fir-Republika tal-Banana

The Banana Republic of Malta


Għall-Partit Laburista fil-Gvern, jidher li xejn m’hu xejn. Għall-Partit Nazzjonalista fl-Opposizzjoni, fil-pajjiż hawn rieħa taqsam ta’ korruzzjoni li tinxtamm wara kull kantuniera. Tlett snin ilu l-affarijiet kienu bil-maqlub. Dakinnhar għall-Partit Nazzjonalista fil-Gvern kollox kien miexi fuq ir-rubini u għall-Partit Laburista fl-Opposizzjoni l-pajjiz kien qabad it-triq tan-niżla.

Il-vizjoni taż-żewġ partiti politiċi fil-Parlament hi waħda mċajpra. Dak li jagħmlu huma hu kollu tajjeb. Huwa biss dak li tagħmel in-naħa l-oħra li hu ħażin.

Il-Prim Ministru qed jgħidilna li l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi ma għamel xejn ħażin meta akkwista jew irreġistra kumpanija fil-Panama.

Għalfejn ikunu akkwistati jew reġistrati kumpaniji fil-Panama? Jekk tfittxu u taqraw daqsxejn issibu li l-Panama, pajjiż fl-Amerika Ċentrali, huwa ħafna drabi mfittex minn min irid jaħbi l-ġid li jkun akkumula, ikun xi jkun is-sors li minnu dan joriġina. Il-Panama għandha leġislazzjoni finanzjarja żviluppata li tipprovdi fost oħrajn għal eżenzjoni minn kull taxxa lil dawk il-kumpaniji li filwaqt li jkunu reġistrati fil-Panama ma joperawx hemmhekk.

Il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi, u issa żdied miegħu ċ-Ċhief of Staff tal-Prim Ministru Keith Schembri, fil-komunikazzjonijiet tagħhom mal-istampa spjegaw li l-kumpaniji tagħhom (s’issa) la għandhom assi u l-anqas ma għamlu l-ebda transazzjoni. Mizzi qal li l-kumpanija fil-Panama u t-trust assoċjata magħha li qegħda fi New Zealand huma intenzjonati biex jamministraw il-ġid tal-familja fil-waqt li Keith Schembri qed jgħid li da parti tiegħu kellu bżonn alternattiva għal trust preżentement ibbażat f’Malta li l-bank li bħalissa qed jamministrah qed jikkunsidra li jgħaddieh f’idejn ħaddieħor.

L-opinjoni pubblika kemmxet xuftejha għal dawn l-ispjegazzjonijiet għax dawn bl-ebda mod ma jiġġustifikaw il-ħolqien ta’ kumpaniji fil-Panama li ngħiduha kif inhi, iktar huma assoċjati mal-ħabi tal-ġid milli għal xi kwalunkwe skop ieħor. Filwaqt li s’issa ħadd għadu ma ġieb l-ebda prova ta’ xi fondi illeċiti assoċjati ma dawn il-kumpaniji fil-Panama kull min għandu rasu fuq għonqu qed jistaqsi għaliex inħolqot din l-assoċjazzjoni perikoluża minn Mizzi u Schembri.

Tweġiba konvinċenti s’issa ma hemmx. Imma hu ovvju għal kulħadd li l-qasba ma ċċaqċaqx għalxejn.

Il-persuna fil-ħajja pubblika ma tiżbaljax biss meta tikser il-liġi, imma ukoll meta jibgħat messaġġi żbaljati. Hu messaġġ żbaljat dak li qed jibgħatu Konrad Mizzi u Keith Schembri meta qed jassoċjaw ruħhom mal-Panama, pajjiż li l-Unjoni Ewropea tqiesu bħala tax haven, u mal-ħasil tal-flus maħmuġin. Pajjiż li d-dinja demokratika tqiesu bħala wieħed fejn jinħbew il-flus li joriġinaw minn attività illeċita.

Hu żball oħxon tal-Prim Ministru li ma jara xejn ħażin f’dak li hu għaddej. Dan hu rifless tal-kumpass etiku tal-Prim Ministru, u sfortunatament ukoll il-kumpass etiku tal-amministrazzjoni li hu qiegħed imexxi.

Fi kwalunkwe pajjiż demokratiku ieħor, pajjiż li jirrispetta lilu nnifsu, Konrad Mizzi, anke biss bħala riżultat ta’ dak li hu magħruf s’issa, kien ikun xkupat il-barra mill-Kabinett, illum qabel għada. Minflok inħatar bħala Deputat Mexxej tal-Partit fil-Gvern.

Qed insiru pajjiż fejn xejn m’hu xejn, fejn kollox jgħaddi. Fi ftit kliem sirna qiesna Repubblika tal-Banana f’nofs il-Mediterran.

Meta iċċaqċaq il-qasba

Konrad Mizzi 13

Il-Ministru Konrad Mizzi ħabbar li waqqaf trust fi New Zealand biex, billi huwa bniedem imħabbat ħafna, permezz tiegħu iqabbad lil terzi biex jamministraw l-investimenti tal-familja.

Huwa tajjeb li jaħseb fit-tul, l-Onorevoli Mizzi.

Il-problema mhix it-trust, iżda dak li ser jitpoġġa fih, kif ukoll minn fejn dan oriġina.

M’għandix dubju li għad irridu nisimgħu ħafna iktar dwar dan. Diġa qed jingħad ħafna fuq il-medja dwar x’seta wassal għal dan il-pass. Għax, ngħiduha kif inhi, mhux soltu li nisimgħu b’dawn l-istejjer, ħlief forsi riċentement meta smajna bi stejjer mill-Bahamas.

Għaliex New Zealand? Ilna nisimgħu stejjer,  uħud minnhom imfesfin fil-widnejn.  Uħud ser ikollhom bżonn mappa biex jifhmu ftit fejn qed isir iċ-ċaqlieq.

Il-qasba qatt ma ċċaqċaq għalxejn.

Nistennew, bħal dejjem.