Il-kontabilità ……….. taħt l-effett tal-loppju

Il-Kummisarju tal-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar fl-uffiċċju ta’ l-Ombudsman, iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa ikkonkluda li mhu affari ta’ ħadd jekk membri tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar jattendux jew le l-laqgħat tal-Bord. Dik biċċa tagħhom: hi responsabbiltà tagħhom dwar kif jaġixxu biex iwettqu r-responsabbiltajiet tagħhom. Meta għaldaqstant, Jacqueline Gili kienet pprovduta bis-servizz ta’ ajruplan privat biex ikun iffaċilitat li hi tattendi għal-laqgħa tal-Bord tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar li fiha kienet diskussa u approvata l-monstrosità tal-dB Group f’Pembroke kien hemm indħil mhux permissibli fil-proċeduri tal-istess awtorità.

Is-Sur Johann Buttigieg, Chairman Eżekuttiv tal-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar, ikkonferma pubblikament li d-deċiżjoni li jġib lil Jacqueline Gili bil-ajruplan privat minn Catania, u jeħodha lura Catania biex tkompli tgawdi l-btala mal-familja tagħha, kienet deċiżjoni tiegħu. F’pajjiż fejn il-governanza tajba hi pprattikata, mhux ipprietkata biss, is-Sur Buttigieg kien jirreżenja immedjatament, inkella kien jitkeċċa bla dewmien hekk kif l-aħbar kienet magħrufa pubblikament. Dan apparti mid-dell kbir li nxteħet fuq il-validità tad-deċżjoni li ttieħdet bħala riżultat ta’ dan l-indħil fil-ħidma tal-Bord.
Imma, huwa fatt magħruf li l-Awtorità tal-Ippjanar mhiex kapaċi tiddeċiedi fuq kaz daqshekk ċar ta’ tmexxija ħażina. M’għandiex il-kuraġġ li taġixxi.

Ma nistgħux nistennew imġieba mod ieħor. Dawk maħtura fl-awtoritajiet pubbliċi huma kkundizzjonati dwar kif iġibu ruħhom mill-mod kif jaraw lill-politiċi li jkunu ħatruhom iġibu ruħhom. U ngħiduha kif inhi: ma tantx għandhom eżempji tajba fuq xiex jimxu.
L-istorja tal-Panama Papers hi waħda relattivament riċenti. Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat, malli sar jaf li l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u ċ-Chief of Staff tiegħu Keith Schembri, waqqfu kumpaniji fl-Amerika Ċentrali, fil-Panama, li hi rinomata bħala post fejn taħbi l-flus u tevita t-taxxi, flok ma keċċihom minnufih, qiesu qagħad jiggusthom daqslikieku ma ġara xejn. Dwar x’seta ġara iktar mill-kumpaniji ta’ Mizzi u Schembri u t-tielet kumpanija misterjuża (Egrant), s’issa għad ma nġiebu l-ebda provi. Dan intqal mill-Qrati repetutament, avolja d-deċiżjonijiet tal-Qrati ġew interpretati b’mod li qieshom naddfu lil uħud assoċjati mal-politika minn kull ħtija possibli. Il-fatti huma mod ieħor, kompletament differenti.

S’issa, bla dubju, hemm assenza ta’ provi kredibbli li jindikaw xi ħtija kriminali. Imma ma nistgħux ngħidu l-istess dwar l-imġieba ta’ dawk involuti. Il-provi magħrufa juru bl-iktar mod ċar li tal-inqas hemm imġieba żbaljata u mhix etika u dan minnu nnifsu jiġġustifika sanzjonijiet politiċi.

Dan ma japplikax biss għal dawk il-persuni li huma esposti għall-politika u li issemmew fil-Panama Papers. Japplika ukoll għal xenarji differenti f’kull kamp politiku.

Fuq livell kompletament differenti, jiena diversi drabi għamilt referenza għal tliet rapporti tal-Awditur Ġenerali dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet politiċi ta’ Jason Azzopardi, ilkoll konnessi mal-amministrazzjoni ta’ art pubblika. F’kull wieħed minn dawn it-tliet rapporti l-ex-Ministru Jason Azzopardi kien iċċensurat b’qawwa kbira. Ilkoll niftakru meta f’Ottubru 2017 waqt laqgħa pubblika tal-Kumitat Parlamentari għall-Kontijiet Pubbliċi uffiċjal pubbliku kien xehed li l-ex Ministru Azzopardi kien jaf b’dak kollu li kien għaddej. Imma Jason Azzopardi jibqa’ jilgħabha tal-iblah u jagħmel ta’ birruħu li ma kellux idea dwar dak li kien għaddej madwaru.

L-Opposizzjoni s’issa għadha ma ġegħlitux jerfa’ r-responsabbiltà ta’ għemilu. La ġiegħlet lilu u l-anqas lil oħrajn. Bilfors, f’dan il-kuntest, allura wieħed jistaqsi dwar kif l-Opposizzjoni tippretendi li neħduha bis-serjetà meta tkun kritika ta’ ħaddieħor. Għax l-ewwel u qabel kollox, l-Opposizzjoni għandha tkun kapaċi tapplika għaliha dak li ġustament tippretendi b’insistenza mingħand ħaddieħor.

Sfortunatament il-klassi politika presentment fil-ħatra mhiex kapaċi tipprattika dak li tipprietka. Meta l-partiti politiċi fil-parlament huma b’kuxjenza mraqqda, qiesha taħt l-effett tal-loppju, m’għandniex għalfejn niskantaw b’dak li naraw madwarna.

Ippubblikat fuq Illum :13 ta’ Jannar 2019

 

Anesthetised accountability

Earlier this week, the Planning and Environment Commissioner at the Ombudsman’s office held that it is nobody’s business as to whether or not the Planning Authority’s Board members attend Board meetings: this is a matter for their exclusive concern. The provision of a jet plane to encourage and facilitate the attendance of Ms Jacqueline Gili at the PA Board meeting which considered and approved the dB monstrosity at Pembroke is thus considered as an undue interference and influence in the Planning Authority’s operations.

The Planning Authority Executive Chairman Johann Buttigieg is on record as having taken the responsibility for the decision to bring Ms Gili over to Malta from Catania by air and facilitating her return to continue her interrupted family holiday.

In a country where good governance is upheld, Mr Buttigieg would have resigned forthwith and, in the absence of such a resignation, he would have been fired on the spot as soon as information on the matter became public knowledge.

In addition one would also have had to deal with the fallout on the validity of the decision so taken as a result of such an undue interference.

It is, however, well known that the Planning Authority is incapable of reacting to such blatant bad governance. It is common knowledge that that it lacks the proverbial balls, making it incapable of acting properly.

But we cannot realistically expect otherwise, because the appointees to public authorities mirror the behaviour of their political masters. We cannot expect accountability from the appointees if those that appoint them continuously try to wriggle out of shouldering their responsibilities. There are, of course, some exceptions.

The Panama Papers saga is recent enough. Instead of firing Minister Konrad Mizzi and his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri on the spot for setting up companies in the Central American tax-haven, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat acted as if nothing of significance ever happened. What could have happened – in addition to the setting up Mizzi’s and Schembri’s companies and the third mysterious one (Egrant) is not so far provable. This has been stated repeatedly by our Courts, although the relative decisions have been repeated misinterpreted as absolving various politically exposed people (PEP) from any wrong doing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There is no doubt that, so far, there is an absence of proof indicating potential criminal liability. However, as a minimum, there is sufficient proof in the public domain pointing towards both errors of judgement and unethical behaviour which, on its own, is sufficient to justify immediate political sanctions.

This is not only applicable to all the PEP featuring in the Panama Papers saga. It is also applicable to other different scenarios across the political divide.

On a completely different level, I refer to the three reports by Auditor-General concerning the political responsibilities of Jason Azzopardi, all three of which deal with the management of government-owned land. In all three cases, former Minister Jason Azzopardi was heavily censored. I remember when a senior civil servant testified during a sitting of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in October 2017, in public session, that then Minister Azzopardi was aware of all the goings-on. Yet Jason Azzopardi sanctimoniously plays the idiot and feigns ignorance of the goings-on around his desk.

As yet, the Opposition has not yet held him (and others) to account. The Opposition cannot expect to be taken seriously when it rightly censors others before it musters sufficient courage to put its own house in order.

Unfortunately, the political class currently in office is not capable of practising what its preaches. With such anesthetised political parties, it is no wonder that this country has long gone to the dogs.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 13 January 2019

Sandro Checuti u t-tagħlim minn Sqallija

Li tipprova titgħallem dejjem tajjeb. Opportunitá tajba għat-tagħlim, għaldaqstant m’għandna  nitilfuha qatt.

Ġie imħabbar f’dawn il-ġranet li l-assoċjazzjoni tal-iżviluppaturi Maltin (MDA) iffirmat ftehim ta’ kooperazzjoni mal-ANCE ta’ Ragusa. L-ittri ANCE jfissru Associazione Nazionale Costruttori Edili – l-Assoċjazzjoni Nazzjonali ta’ dawk li jibnu l-bini residenzjali.

Dan il-ftehim ta’ kooperazzjoni, qalulna, kien meħtieġ għax hemm ħafna x’nitgħallmu mingħand xulxin: bejn żviluppaturi Maltin u Sqallin, jiġifieri. Bla dubju hemm ħafna nies tas-sengħa fi Sqallija, inkluż fis-snajja tal-bini. Il-presenza tiżdied tagħhom f’Malta tista’ tgħin lill-Maltin (fl-istess snajja) biex itejbu x-xogħol tagħhom. Imma tajjeb li nifhmu ukoll li anke f’Malta għandna ħafna mustaċċuni fis-snajja konnessi mal-bini.

Ikun interessanti liema huma dawk is-snajja u kapaċitajiet li ser issir emfasi dwarhom.

Bla dubju wieħed mill-oqsma li jista’ jkun hemm min jitħajjar jitgħallem ftit ieħor huwa dwar l-appalti pubbliċi (dwar it-tenders pubbliċi jiġifieri). Nifhem li jistgħu jitħajru jiġu xi professuri minn Sqallija, minn dawk li għandhom esperjenza kbira. Ma nafx jekk jiġux minn Ragusa inkella minn xi parti oħra ta’ Sqallija. Dan hu qasam li minkejja l-“iżviluppi” kbar f’Malta, għadna apprentisti ħdejn l-iSqallin! Imma, ovvjament, il-possibilta tat-tagħlim m’għandhiex tkun skartata.

Ikun interessanti x’sehem ser ikollhom l-uffiċjali pubbliċi u l-politiċi li ħadu sehem fil-laqgħat bejn l-iżviluppaturi Maltin u dawk Sqallin. Probabbilment li l-għatx tagħhom għat-tagħlim hu kbir wisq.

Luigi Di Maio’s threat

US President Donald Trump, over breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, unleashed a blistering criticism of Angela Merkel’s government for being too supportive of Russia’s natural gas pipeline, which provides natural gas to various European states. Germany is too dependent on Russian natural gas, said Donald Trump. Is it appropriate for Angela Merkel’s Germany to do away with energy sovereignty and security in this manner? Being too dependent on Putin’s Russia is not on, he suggested.

Malta also may have its energy sovereignty and security hanging by a string.

Only last month we were reminded by Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi di Maio that Malta’s electricity interconnector supply is plugged in at Ragusa on the Sicilian mainland. The comment was made in the context of the savage debate that developed over the rescue operations involving drowning immigrants picked up from the Mediterranean Sea by NGO operated sea vessels.

The Cinque Stelle politician considered it appropriate to use the Ragusa plug-in for political leverage in the same manner that Vladimir Putin makes use of his Russian gas supply, in relation not just to Angela Merkel’s Germany, but to most of the European mainland.

The fact that Malta is at times too dependent on the Ragusa electricity supply makes matters worse. We have undoubtedly lost count over the last months regarding the number of times we have been subjected to an electricity black-out in Malta: the standard explanation being that there was some technical hitch on either side of the Sicilian Channel which was being taken care of.

Malta will shortly have another Sicilian plug-in, this time a gas pipeline most probably at Gela.

Like the electricity interconnector plugged in at Ragusa the gas-pipeline plugged in at Gela will be another commercial undertaking. Malta will be paying for its gas, just as much as it is paying for its electricity.

Luigi Di Maio’s thinly veiled threat was obviously that the existing electricity plug-in at Ragusa was there at the Italian government’s pleasure which could reverse any commitment entered into so far if the Maltese government persists in irritating it.

It is not known whether there was any follow-up to Di Maio’s declaration, accept that the Maltese government closed all ports to NGO-operated vessels and that criminal proceedings were initiated against the MV Lifeline captain on flimsy sea-vessel registration charges.

This is unfortunately in-line with the Di Maio/Salvini philosophy that good Samaritans have to be treated suspiciously.

At the time of writing, another sea vessel with 450 migrants on board is sailing through Malta’s search and rescue area towards Sicily with Matteo Salvini, Minister for the Interior, insisting that Italy’s ports are closed for such vessels.

What next?

Potentially, as a result of the closure of Maltese and Italian ports, this is another developing tragedy. Di Maio’s veiled threat, maybe, has been taken seriously by the Maltese government.

Such incidents send one clear message: the foundations of solidarity as a value have heavily eroded. It has been transformed into a slogan. Solidarity is one of the basic values of the European Union – it is not limited to the EU’s border states. Successive Maltese governments have tried to nudge other EU member states to shoulder this collective responsibility which is currently shouldered disproportionately by the border states. The response from nine members states when the MV Lifeline debacle came to the fore was encouraging, but it is certainly not enough.

Faced with racist and xenophobic overreactions, opting for solidarity is not an easy choice. It would be certainly helpful if more EU states put solidarity into practice. The problem is that not all of them are convinced that this is the only ethical way forward.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 July 2018

Ir-riskji tat-tanker tal-gass

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

Ilna iktar minn tliet snin nargumentaw fuq il-ħażna tal-gass għall-power station ġdida li kienet issue ċentrali fl-aħħar elezzjoni ġenerali.

Qabel l-elezzjoni l-ħażna kienet proposta li issir fuq l-art. Wara l-elezzjoni nbidlu l-pjani u saret il-proposta għall-ħażna fuq il-baħar.

Tajjeb li niftakru li fi tmiem is-snin 90 kien hemm diskussjonijiet dettaljati mat-Taljani tal-AGIP dwar il-kostruzzjoni ta’ pipeline tal-gass bejn Gela fi Sqallija u Marsaxlokk. Il-ftehim ma twettaqx għax kieku ilna 20 sena bil-gass u t-tanker ma kienx ikun hemm bżonnu.

Il-Gvern ħabbar xi xhur ilu li t-tanker tal-gass sorġut fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk ser ikun qiegħed hemm temporanjament sakemm ikunu iffinalizzati l-proċeduri kollha neċessarji biex isir il-pipeline tal-gass.

Meta kien hemm id-diskussjoni dwar il-power station il-ġdida quddiem il-Bord tal-MEPA xi sentejn ilu konna iddiskutejna f’ċerta dettall id-diffikultajiet li konna qed nantiċipaw dwar dan it-tanker tal-gass. Dawn essenzjalment kienu tnejn. L-ewwel l-impatt tal-maltemp fuq it-tanker innifsu kif ukoll fuq il-vapuri  fil-viċinanzi, prinċipalment dawk fil-Port  Ħieles imma ukoll l-impatt fuq is-sajjieda. It-tieni dwar il-miżuri ta’ sigurtá biex ikunu evitati inċidenti u f’kaz li dawn xorta jseħħu jkunu minimizzati l-konsegwenzi.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ser ikunu ippubblikati r-rapporti li saru u terġa tiftaħ beraħ id-diskussjoni.

Naħseb li kulħadd jieħu pjaċir kieku dawn il-problemi jissolvew.

L-istandards ta’ sigurtá fl-industrija tal-gass ifissru li dwar issues ta’ sigurtá u periklu, r-riskju possibilment ikun minimizzat kif kienu rrappurtaw l-esperti George Papadakis u Roberto Vaccari, kwazi tlett snin ilu. Hemm ukoll il-materja tas-sigurtá marittima li għad irridu naraw x’miżuri effettivi ser jittieħdu. Għax s’issa ftit huwa magħruf sakemm naraw ir-rapporti u naqrawhom sew.

Ir-riskji ħadd ma hu ser jeliminhom. Bla dubju hemm kull interess li dawn jonqsu l-iktar possibli. Imma kemm fil-fatt jonqsu  għad irridu naraw. Kif wara kollox irridu naraw min ser iħallas il-prezz. U l-prezz, tajjeb li niftakru, ma jitħallasx biss bl-euro.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : 17 t’Ottubru 2016

Wara t-tejatrin ta’ Singapore …………….. lil hinn mill-partiġjaniżmu politiku

Delimara floating gas stirage terminal

 

Qed joqrob il-jum li fih it-tanker għall-ħażna tal-gass tal-power station jidħol u jitqiegħed fil-Port ta’ Marsaxlokk. Qed jgħidulna li dan ser ikun temporanju, jiġifieri għal ftit taż-żmien, sakemm jitlestew l-istudji dwar il-pipline tal-gass bejn Sqallija u Malta. Ovvjament trid iżżid ukoll iż-żmien biex il-pipeline jitqieghed f’qiegħ il-baħar inkluż ukoll il-perjodu tal-finanzjament, tendering u commissioning. Mhux xahar u tnejn.

Kemm ser ikun twil dan il-perjodu temporanju? Jiddependi mix-xogħol li sar diġà. Peró ma neħodiex bi kbira jekk dan iż-żmien ikun bejn 5 u 8 snin.

Sadanittant hemm il-ħtieġa li jkun ikkunsidrat il-permess operattiv tal-power station taħdem bil-gass f’Delimara. Dan il-permess ikun irid jissodisfa tlett tipi ta’ direttivi/regolamenti. Dawk dwar l-impjanti industrijali, dawk dwar l-impatti ambjentali (IPPC – Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) u dawk dwar il-ħarsien minn inċidenti industrijali u l-impatti kemm ambjentali kif ukoll dawk ta’ protezzjoni ċivili (Direttivi ta’ Seveso).

Dan kollu jkun ikkunsidrat mill-Awtorità tal-Ambjent u Riżorsi flimkien ma’ awtoritajiet oħra, prinċipalment id-Dipartiment tal-Protezzjoni Ċivili u l-Awtorità għall-Ħarsien tas-Saħħa fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol. Imma ser ikun hemm ukoll bla dubju ħtieġa  ta’ eżami sewwa ta’ issues ta’ navigazzjoni minn Trasport Malta minħabba kemm it-tanker stazzjonarju (marbut mal-moll) fil-bajja ta’ Marsaxlokk kif ukoll minħabba li madwar 8 darbiet fis-sena ser jidħlu tankers bil-ħtiġijiet tal-gass skond kemm tkun qed tikkonsma gass il-Power Station ta’ Delimara.

Dawn huma kollha affarijiet li ġew diskussi f’ċerta dettall madwar sentejn ilu meta kien qed ikun diskuss il-permess ta’ żvilupp quddiem il-MEPA. Dakinnhar kien intqal li dawn kollha kienu affarijiet li riedu jkunu deċiżi iktar tard. Preċiżament issa hu dak il-mument, matul dawn il-ġimgħat u xhur li ġejjin.

Ser naraw matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ sigurtà huwa u jkun trasferit il-gass mit-tankers ġejjin u sejrin għal ġot-tanker stazzjonarju. Jekk hux veru li għal ċertu ħin il-port ikun jeħtieġlu illi jkun magħluq u kif dan (jekk minnu) ser jeffettwa l-operat tal Freeport u tas-sajjieda.

Irridu naraw kemm il-miżuri ta’ sigurtà fl-operazzjoni tal-power station huma f’posthom u xi drills ser ikunu meħtieġa (inkluż il-frekwenza tagħhom) biex ikun assigurat illi l-popolazzjoni residenzjali fil-viċinanzi tkun imħejjija għal kull eventwalità, anke jekk remota.

Wara l-inċidenti ta’ tmiem il-ġimgħa fil-ħruq tan-nar tal-festa ta’ Marsaxlokk bla dubju jridu jittieħdu prewkazzjonijiet ħafna iktar biex ikun assigurat li dawn it-tip ta’ inċidenti, jekk iseħħu, jinżammu l-bogħod kemm jista’ jkun mill-power station ta’ Delimara u l-ħażna tal-gass.

Dan kollu dwaru hemm l-obbligu li jkun hemm konsultazzjoni pubblika mar-residenti effettwati, dawk ta’ Marsaxlokk prinċipalment, imma probabbilment ukoll dawk ta’ Birżebbuġa.

L-operazzjoni tal-power station bil-gass bla dubju ser tnaqqas it-tniġġż tal-arja u b’mod ġenerali ittejjeb l-impatti ambjentali. Il-kostruzzjoni tal-pipe tal-gass eventwalment tnaqqas u tbiegħed il-perikli. Imma sa ma jasal dak il-jum, il-possibiltà tal-perikli, anke jekk remoti xorta qegħda wara l-bieb tagħna.

Lil hinn mill-partiġġjaniżmu politiku għandna l-obbligu li nassiguraw li l-affarijiet isiru sewwa. Biex dan isir għandna l-obbligu li neżaminaw kull pass li jsir. Għax b’hekk biss kulħadd joqgħod attent li jagħmel xogħolu sewwa.

ippubblikat fuq iNews : it-Tlieta 2 t’Awwissu 2016

Next Thursday’s earthquake

earthquake

 

This will be a simulation exercise coordinated by Malta’s Civil Protection Department at 4pm next Thursday in Gozo and three hundred people will be involved.

It will be carried out with EU assistance and in conjunction with the Civil Protection Authorities in Sicily who are partners with the Maltese Civil Protection Department (CPD) in establishing a network within the region that is able to manage seismological disasters.

This exercise signals the coming of age of Malta’s CPD. It has to date delivered sterling service in the areas of fire-fighting, managing pollution and providing assistance required as a result of flooding after heavy storms. Training its staff, and subjecting them to a gruelling simulation exercise, is a gigantic step forward for the CPD. It is the first step of a long journey that is dependent on the dedication of the CPD staff  – which is unlimited – as well as the resources allocated by the state. Such resources, although limited over the years, seem to be slowly trickling down, for a change.

Developing the CPD’s ability to handle disasters will be a major challenge. For a start it will identify its capability to develop effective coordination with the Police Force, with the AFM (Armed Forces) and the health authorities as well as with local councils.

At the end of the day the CPD’s proficiency in disaster management will be measured in terms of its response time as well as the number of lives it saves in such situations. This will generally depend on the severity of the disaster with which it is faced.

This will not only translate into a general level of preparedness. It will also require focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities and in this respect the role of local councils is indispensable. Specific protocols need to be developed and tested in conjunction with local councils regarding the assistance required by children and those who are bedridded or disabled. Catering for all disabilities is an indispensible prerequisite and it requires trained personnel to which the CPD currently has no access. It is an easily identifiable deficiency which needs to be addressed forthwith.

One small example would suffice: how would the CPD personnel, the police, the AFM – or the health authorities for that matter – communicate with persons with  impaired hearing in the absence of staff able to communicate in sign language? Addressing this deficiency is required not just to ensure that Malta is adequately prepared for disaster management. It is also an everyday deficiency that every authority in Malta that offers a direct service to the population at large needs to address. With around five hundred known Maltese with impaired hearing and a number of others who may have remained below the radar, this is an issue which is manageable primarily at a local level. Yet to date it has not been adequately prioritised.

In this context, one would also need to query the level of preparedness of institutions such as Mount Carmel Hospital and id-Dar tal-Providenza. I am informed that even when it comes to fire drills in residential homes for the elderly, the results were not impressive, to put it mildly.

Prompt and effective coordination between the different authorities is crucial in ensuring disaster management. There is a need to test how the different types of equipment used by the CPD, the Police and the AFM interact. Are they compatible? The planned simulation exercise is an opportunity to identify whether, in an actual practice run, matters will work out as planned. Lessons learned in this area will have to be translated into better procurement procedures in the future to ensure smooth interaction between the CPD, the police and the Army.

This will translate into compatible communication equipment as well as adequately maintained vehicles, sea craft and aeroplanes/helicopters which can be used in difficult circumstances. Knowing that maintenance of equipment has never been our forte, this could be quite a challenge!

The simulation exercise on Gozo on 3 September will necessarily lead to a number of lessons learnt which will have to be acted upon in order that Malta’s capability in disaster management is enhanced. This is definitely a bold step in the right direction.

I look forward to the next steps which require the involvement of local authorities.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 30 August 2015

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.

Meta l-“Mulej” jitbissem ……………. lil tal-Mafja

Zammit-ferrari

L-arresti f’Malta u fl-Italja, il-bieraħ, juru kemm pajjiżna, bħal kull pajjiż ieħor wara kollox, huwa taħt theddida.

L-istituzzjonijiet huma taħt theddida mill-kriminalità organizzata. Parti kbira mit-theddida hi l-presenza ta’ persuni bħall-Mulej fl-istituzzjonijiet. Dawn inawwru l-istituzzjonijiet minn ġewwa, tant li meta tfittex, tispiċċa biex ma ssib kważi xejn.

Huma sitta l-kumpaniji konnessi mal-logħob tal-azzard f’Malta li issemmew (bil-pulit gaming industry). Dawn is-sitt kumpaniji f’Malta kellhom il-liċenzji tagħhom sospiżi u l-assi tagħhom sekwestrati. Sitt ċittadini Taljani ġew arrestati u ser ikunu estraditi fil-kuntest ta’ investigazzjoni iktar wiesa’ konnessa mal-Indraghetta, l-organizzazzjoni kriminali ibbażata fil-pajjiż ġar tagħna l-Italia, preċiżment fil-Calabria.

Iktar kmieni, Taljan ieħor ġie arrestat hekk kif kien għadu kif wasal bil-katamaran f’Pozzallo Sqallija direttament minn Malta.

M’hiex sitwazzjoni faċli. Imma issir iktar ikkumplikata meta jkun hemm dubju dwar l-istituzzjonijiet.

Ftit iktar minn xahar ilu il-gazzetti lokali kienu taw pubbliċita lill-fatt li Spettur tal-Pulizija fl-Economic Crimes Unit kellu interessi ta’ negozju fl-industrija tal-logħob tal-azzard. Dan l-istess Spettur tal-Pulizija kien ukoll ġie misluf Ferrari minn ħabib tiegħu fl-industrija.

Huma affarijiet li diffiċli tifhem kif jistgħu jsiru, dejjem sakemm ma tirrealizzawx li meta l-Mulej ikun miegħek, bi tbissima, tista’ tagħmel kważi kollox.

Għax għalkemm dawn l-affarijiet qed joħorġu fid-dawl tax-xemx illum, ilhom jinħmew. Rabbew egħruq fil-fond tul is-snin. B’mod partikolari meta l-Mulej kien imexxi l-Korp tal-Pulizija dawn l-egħruq issaħħu.

M’għandniex wisq biex nistagħġbu b’dak li ġara. Anzi iktar hemm għax ninkwetaw li ma nafux b’iktar. Għax min jaf x’sar u x’hemm għaddej li ma nafux bih.

Ngħiduha kif inhi: jekk il-Mulej ikun miegħek, min jista’ jeħodha kontrik?

 

Il-helicopter għal Justyne

helicopter AFM

Justyne twasslet l-ajruport malajr bil-helicopter. Għax inkella ma kienitx tlaħħaq, qalulna, u dan minħabba li damu ma iddeċidew. Il-problema ma kienitx Justyne, iżda l-fatt li damu ma iddeċidew.

Il-każ tal-helicopter, kif qalulna, mhux biss ta’ Justyne iżda ukoll il-każ ta’ Lawrence Gonzi. Ta’ meta għamel użu mill-helicopter għal xi tieġ, għall-opra jew biex ilaħħaq jattendi għal xi funeral ukoll. Issemma ukoll meta Lawrence Gonzi għamel użu minn ajruplan tal-Forzi Armati ta’ Malta biex jattendi Palermo għal attivita tal-Partit Popolari Ewropew.

Issa dan kollu huwa tajjeb jew ħażin? Għall-PN Justyne abbużat! Għall-Labour il-PN m’għandux dritt jakkuża b’abbuż għax il-PN fil-Gvern “abbuża ħafna iktar minn hekk”!

Ir-realta’ hi li dan hu każ fejn għandu jkun ċar għal kulħadd liema huma dawk il-faċilitajiet u servizzi li joffri l-istat li jistgħu jkunu użati mill-politiċi kif ukoll taħt liema kundizzjonijiet dan jista’ jsir..

Jiena ma nara xejn ħażin li fiċ-ċirkustanzi partikolari li nqalgħu Justyne utilizzat il-faċilita’ tal-helicopter. Nittama biss li f’ċirkustanzi simili jintużaw l-istess kriterji ma kulħadd.

Jibqa’ l-każ ta’ Lawrence Gonzi. Kien ġustifikat jew le li juża ajrulan tal-Forzi Armati ta’ Malta biex imur Palermo jattendi laqgħa tal-Partit Popolari Ewropew . Jiena kont dakinnhar ikkritikajt il-kaz billi fuq dan il-blog għidt li l-PN jisserva bl-Armata.

L-impenji ta’ Lawrence Gonzi, kienu qalulna dakinnhar, kienu tali li meta tqis kollox dan kien l-unika mod kif jasal għall-laqgħa tal-Partit Popolari Ewropew f’Palermo. Wieħed jista’ jasal biex jaċċetta dan it-tip ta’ argument biss meta jkun ċar li l-Armata mhux ser tintuża biex tissussidja lill-Partit Politiċi. F’ċirkustanzi bħal dawn, meta jkunu ġustifikati, għandu jintbagħat kont mill-Armata lill-partit politiku li jkun utilizza s-servizzi tagħha.

Dan ukoll hu wieħed mill-materji ta’ relevanza kbira għal Standards fil-ħajja pubblika.

Jekk nifhmu dan, il-helicopter għal Justyne ikun sewa għal xi ħaga!