The Republic is sick

Following the compilation of evidence in our law courts relative to the multiple cases dealing with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia is in itself a detailed continuously developing documentary of the failure of our institutions, the failure of the state.

Daphne’s assassination is also a failure of the police corps to keep a tag on criminal activity.

How could the police corps carry out its duties with officers like Silvio Valletta hibernating deep inside criminal pockets? Silvio Valletta has to date not been prosecuted for his criminal activity which has been the cause of considerable reputational damage and to the effectiveness of the police corps.

Today we know of Valletta’s cavorting with Yorgen Fenech. Valletta was not an ordinary simple cop languishing in some out of the way police station. He practically ran the Police Corps as Deputy Commissioner of Police and represented it on the governing board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU).

The fact that this top policeman acted in such a manner is a clear indication of the forma mentis of the contemporary top brass at Floriana Police HQ. An Ombudsman report made public earlier this month on the investigation relative to the complaint of a Police Superintendent has dwelt at some length as to how police officials were selected: loyalty to the boss before loyalty to service was a basic requirement. With police officer selection being carried out on the basis of such a “qualification” it is no surprise that that the Police Corps was compromised for such a long time.

Uncle Silvio was the perfect investment for Yorgen Fenech. For a long time, Silvio Valletta was the key that facilitated access to Yorgen Fenech to all sorts of intelligence. A perfect example which illustrates what it means when we emphasise that the criminal world is many steps ahead of the police force.  In this specific case, for quite a time, the criminal world had the police force on a remote control, through Silvio Valletta.

It is difficult to comprehend how we could ever have an institutional failure of larger proportions.

This did not happen overnight. It is however central to the web of intrigue which developed over the years and leading up the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and beyond.

When Valletta’s conflict of interest as the then husband of a cabinet minister was spotlighted, the resistance to let got was enormous. It had to be a laborious court case which at the end of the day had him removed from coordinating the assassination investigation.

The final report of the public inquiry into Daphne’s assassination has now been published. It does not identify who signed Daphne’s death warrant: that was not its purpose. It does however examine how a state of impunity has developed over time such that her assassination was the direct consequence. It points out how business and politics became intertwined until you could not tell which was which.

The main takeaway from the inquiry report is that the state has been taken over by a Mafia mentality. The state has been hijacked by a cultural mindset that allows and encourages a Mafia attitude to take root and prosper.

Few of the proposals of the inquiry are new to the political debate. Most have been put forward over the years but they were shot down, diluted or had the breaks applied by different governments. Effective whistleblowing is still subject to political strings as has been evidenced over the years. Lobbying regulation is still talked of but not implemented.  The regulation of ethical behaviour has developed into a farce, notwithstanding the efforts of George Hyzler, the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

It is about time that the links between business and all branches of the state are transparent. Everything, without any exception, must be above board. This has been on the books for years, yet continuously ignored.

The Maltese state has been severely weakened by those who sought their fast-track enrichment at all costs. It is up to all of us, to stop them in their tracks. The soonest. The state has failed us. The Republic is sick.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 1 August 2021

It-timbru tal-Mafja u l-‘Ndraghetta



L-ebda Awtorità f’Malta m’hi ser tgħidilna x’verifiki għamlet qabel ma ħarġet il-liċenżji. Dan jgħodd ukoll għal dawk il-liċenzji li ġew sospiżi dan l-aħħar wara l-ħruġ ta’ mandat t’arrest Ewropew għal sitt ċittadini taljani . Qed nirreferi għal dawk li kienu involuti fil-logħob tal-azzard elettroniku liċenzjat : iGaming jew remote gaming.

Li kieku l-Awtorità tagħti din l-informazzjoni ma tkunx serja għax tkun qed tikxef idejha!

Jibqa’ peró l-fatt li wara li ilna snin nisimgħu dwar kemm Malta hi l-iktar pajjiż serju f’dan il-qasam, tfaċċaw dawn il-każi. Ir-reazzjoni ġenerali hi li dawn qed jitfgħu dubju fuq is-serjetà li ilna nisimgħu biha.

Biex tgħaxxaqha kien hemm wieħed avukat li qalilna li ankè hu jagħmel il-verifiki (due diligence) dwar il-klijenti tiegħu. Peró dan l-avukat qalilna iktar minn hekk. Għax qalilna x’verifiki jagħmel. Fi stqarrija li huwa stess ħareġ dan l-avukat informa lil kulħadd li l-kumpanija tiegħu tivverifika l-passaport, il-kondotta tal-Pulizija kif ukoll li min japplika jkollu residenza fissa u li din tkun dokumentata.

Issa din l-informazzjoni hi kollha importanti. Li jkollok passaport validu, indirizz fiss u kondotta tal-Pulizija huwa tajjeb bħala punt tat-tluq. Imma ma naħsibx li hu biżżejjed biex tinduna jekk klijent huwiex assoċjat mal Mafja jew mal-‘Ndraghetta. . Imma wisq nibża’ li ftit li xejn qed isir tiftix iktar minn hekk għax kieku hu impossibli li jkun hemm daqstant li qed jiġru warajhom il-Pulizija Taljana u jinstabu fostna.

Wara kollox ħadd ma għandu timbru fuq moħħu jew fuq il-passaport li hu assoċjat mal Mafja jew mal-‘Ndraghetta.

Jiena ma naħsibx li xi ħadd hawn Malta fid-deher fittex li jissieħeb mal-kriminalità organizzata f’dan il-qasam. Probabbilment li kienu huma li bi ħsieb fittxew li jinqdew b’dawk il-professjonisti li isimhom ħasbu li seta jiftħilhom il-bibien mingħajr ħafna mistoqsijiet li huma jqisu żejda.

Hemm bżonn li l-verifiki jsiru ferm aħjar minn dak li jidher li sar s’issa. Fuq kollox hemm bżonn li titneħħa s-segretezza minn dan il-qasam.

Għax għalkemm in-numru ta’ dawk li qed ikunu kawża ta’ problema huma ftit, kull wieħed hu żejjed.

From toxic waste to iGaming



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


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?


The tip of the iceberg: In 2011 a €20 billion Mafia racket from dumping of toxic and nuclear waste


What follows is an article published 2 years ago in the UK Independent :

Mafia earning €20bn from dumping toxic waste

Italy’s mafia clans, best known for drug running and extortion rackets, are earning €20 billion a year by turning the south of the country into a toxic waste dump, an environmental organisation said in a major report.

Heavy metals and cancer-causing organic compounds are being illegally buried with increasing frequency, often in agricultural areas or on land that is used to build new homes, the Legambiente group warns.

The dangers to human health were dramatically illustrated when contaminated farmland outside Naples was blamed for the discovery of toxic dioxins in the region’s prized buffalo mozzarella cheese in 2008.

And the escalating risk is underlined by the new report which shows that last year the authorities seized a record two million tonnes of dangerous waste on its way for disposal, often in the one of Italy’s four southern-most regions, Sicily, Calabria, Campania and Puglia where the country’s four main mafia groups hold sway.

Enrico Fontana, Legambiente’s spokesman on environmental and organised crime, said the figure was just the tip of the iceberg. “There was a lot more that was not intercepted,” he said. “And this market makes the mafia huge amounts of money. And the amount they earn from it is growing,” he said.

At the latest count, in 2010, around 31,000 environmental crimes were committed, the report says, with 41% of them involving illegal waste disposal and recycling of cement.

Campania, the region around Naples whose streets are perpetually carpeted in piles of stinking garbage, is the worst-hit part of the country, it is claimed. The local mafia, the Camorra, is frequently blamed for exacerbating or even causing the rubbish crisis – by encouraging the closure of official incineration plants – in order to fan demand for its illegal dumping services.

The Camorra’s role was underlined today by the arrest of Naples-area businessman Ludovico Ucciero for allegedly helping local mobsters enrich themselves through control of garbage removal and incineration. Mr Ucciero runs four rubbish removal companies, which have been seized by authorities.

Campania is followed in the environmental abuse stakes by Calabria, home to the powerful ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate. Then comes Sicily the base of Cosa Nostra, and Puglia, the home of the Sacra Corona Unita crime group. The four southern regions together accounted for 45% of the overall environmental-crime tally.

But Mr Fontana warned that it was not only Italy’s south was under threat from toxic dumping. “It’s happening now in Lombardy (the region around the northern city of Milan). ‘ndrangheta is dumping toxic waste there in or at places where homes and offices are being constructed,” he said. “The Ecomafia is a virus that poisons the environment, pollutes the economy and endangers people’s health.”

According to the report, Italy was the also “the crossroads for the international traffic in dangerous waste and radioactive material coming from other countries that was destined for, via sea, Africa and Asian countries”.

Legambiente said illegal building was another environmental blight that was on the rise, with 26,500 properties illicitly constructed last year. Mr Fontana said that as a result “parks and countryside and other places an area the size of 540 soccer pitches has been stolen”.

Sometimes hideous, concrete monsters sprout up to despoil some of Italy’s most beautiful coast and countryside. Earlier this year, four people were arrested in connection with the illegal construction of the eight-storey “Ecomonster” at Sant’Agata in Puglia.

Illicit and shoddily constructed homes, using poor quality cement, are also prone to collapse, as was the case with the student dormitory that subsided during the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake killing eight students.

Mr Fontana said the Italian government should introduce as a matter of urgency more severe penalties. Currently only one activity, organisation of illegal waste trafficking, has the status of a serious crime that can be punished by longer jail terms and investigated by wiretaps. “The act of dumping poison and polluting streams and the air,” should also be classified in this way,” he said.

Making a killing from the environment

1. Mozzarella

In March 2008 the Italian government recalled from sale buffalo mozzarella cheese made by 25 producers in the Campania region near Naples, after they were found to contain high levels of the dangerous chemical dioxin. Toxic waste, illegally dumped by criminals on agricultural land used for pasture, was blamed.

2. Toxic ships

Authorities in Calabria fear that ‘ndrangheta mobsters have deliberately sunk ships carrying toxic or radioactive cargoes of the region’s coastline it order to make money from the insurance claims. Legambiente has said that 30 or more such ships, may have sunk off the Calabrian coast in suspicious circumstances in the past two decades.

3. Wind power

In September last year it emerged that Cosa Nostra was attempting to cream off millions of euros from both the Italian government and the European Union, by snatching the generous grants on offer for investment in wind power. Police seized mob assets – worth €1.5bn (£1.25bn) – from the Mafia-linked Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, who had vast holdings in alternative energy concerns.

Schiavone’s secrets on Eco-Mafia operations: when will Malta’s government speak up?


I have dealt with eco-Mafia in previous blogposts. It handles toxic and nuclear waste, pockets the substantial fees for handling such waste and then dumps the waste wherever the Mafia feels it is necessary. It has pocketed billions in the process.

They have done it when they sunk 42 ships in the Mediterranean Sea carrying loads of toxic and nuclear waste. This they did in the 1980s and 90s.

They did it when they dumped toxic waste in disused quarries which ended up as the grazing grounds for herds of buffalos in the agricultural areas around  Napoli. As a result buffalo mozzarella ended up being withdrawn from the market in March 2008.

Last week Carmine Schiavone’s secret testimony given 16 years ago to one of the Italian Parliament’s Committees was published. In this testimony he reveals more cases of dumping of toxic and nuclear waste in various areas around Napoli.

In addition to the impacts on the communities residing in the Napoli area, all this could have serious implications beyond Napoli.

I can think of 4 basic impacts on Malta of the activities of eco-Mafia throughout the years, namely :

1. 60% of Malta’s water is purified sea water; hence what goes into the sea is of primary importance for us;
2. fish is an important part of our diet; fish do not respect boundaries; marine pollution is known to be absorbed by fish and passed on through the foodchain;
3. health and safety of fishermen in polluted waters is of considerable concern;
4. the polluted ground water, and polluted fields in the Naples area are also of concern due to their impact on the  foodchain. In Malta we import various food products from Italy.

It would be interesting to be informed as to why the Maltese Government has been silent on the matter for so long.

Ecocide in the Mediterranean. The known consequences so far.


Carmine Schiavone’s secrets are now public knowledge. They  join the testimony of Francesco Fonti at the Mafia’s maxi-processo in Palermo. The mozzarella scandal of 2008 pales into insignificance.

Organised crime has a solid grip on toxic and nuclear waste disposal in the Italian peninsula. They dumped it in  areas where buffalos grazed. They dumped in areas around Naples, in particular around Casale di Principe or in the Mediterranean Sea. Francesco Fonti had mentioned 42 ships laden with toxic and nuclear waste which were sunk in different areas of the Mediterranean. The location of one them, the Cunsky (vide illustration above) had been identified just off the coast of Calabria loaded with 120 barrels of toxic waste.

The latest revelations involve the dumping of nuclear and toxic waste originating from Germany and Northern Italy  in areas where they contaminated ground water.

Legambiente, the Italian environment NGO is not surprised with the information revealed in Schiavone’s testimony. Over the years it has documented countless cases which it classifies under the title Ecomafia: it has published annual reports on the matter since the year 2000.

I will not bother you with more details. Just one tiny bit: one particular health centre in the Naples area has identified that the number of cancer cases it deals with has skyrocketed from 136 in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

The New York Times on Sunday reported : Mafia’s dumping of toxic waste blamed for high cancer rates in Italy.  “Cancer rates have increased 47% for men and 40% for women in the areas around Naples and Pompeii thanks to illegal disposal by Mafia-controlled companies that occurred during a 20-year period, in which the harmful substances were dumped into lakes, farmland, quarries and caves.”

In Malta the above has not triggered any particular interest yet.

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

the geography of organised crime

Mafia’s toxic secret revealed (IoL News – 4 November 2013)

Italy is reeling from revelations from a former boss that the mafia made money from the late 1980s onwards by dumping huge quantities of toxic waste throughout southern Italy, endangering the lives of millions of people.

Carmine Schiavone, an ex-affiliate of the Camorra, the Neapolitan branch of the Italian mafia, made the shocking statement to a parliamentary committee of inquiry in 1997. His remarks were protected by state secrecy laws until they were lifted on Thursday.

“I know from experience that until 1992 (the year he was arrested), southern regions… were all contaminated by toxic waste from all over Europe, not just Italy,” Schiavone told lawmakers.

“We are talking millions, not thousands” of tons of toxic material, he said.

There was industrial waste from northern Italy, but also radioactive material from Germany, which was disposed of in caves up to 50m deep, near groundwater reserves, as well as in fish tanks and lakes, Schiavone said.

The Camorra is continuing its activities today, he said on Friday, after a transcript of his 16-year-old statement was made public. “They did it then and they are still doing it,” he told RAI state television.

In Parliament, Schiavone explained how the Casalesi, a powerful Camorra clan he belonged to, controlled the waste disposal business between Latina, 70km south of Rome, and Caserta, 40km north of Naples.

Residents of Casal di Principe, the town the Casalesi have taken their name from, and of surrounding areas, “risk all dying from cancer within 20 years… indeed, I don’t believe they will survive”, Schiavone said.

There are no overall statistics on the rise of cancer rates in Naples and its surroundings, but in May it was revealed that a local government health unit in the city had found that cases in its ward had increased from 136 in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

Father Maurizio Patriciello, a local priest who is involved in grassroots protests against waste pollution, was outraged by Italian authorities’ failure to alert local residents about the dangers revealed by the mafioso.

“If sixteen years ago the state had warned us citizens of Naples and Caserta that we would have died of cancer from dumped waste, at least those who were younger could have packed their bags and gone living elsewhere,” he told Italy’s Huffington Post on Saturday.

Allegations about toxic waste have circulated for years. Roberto Saviano, an anti-Mafia author, wrote about the Camorra’s deadly business in his 2006 bestseller Gomorrah, which was later turned into a critically acclaimed film.

“The open secret has been revealed,” Legambiente, Italy’s biggest environmental association, said after the publication of the Schiavone testimony.

It called for “the truth” on “who, in politics, kept quiet for so many years and failed to act… pretending not to know, amid general indifference, and becoming a de facto accomplice of the massacre in those lands”.

Before the parliamentary committee, Schiavone said that in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Camorra directly appointed mayors “in all 106 municipalities of the province of Caserta”.

He said it could also count on the tacit support of national politicians such as former ministers Francesco De Lorenzo, Vincenzo  Scotti, Antonio Gava, and former premier Ciriaco De Mita, currently  a member of the European Parliament.

“It is not like they were clan members, or mafiosi; unfortunately each one of us has only one vote, and to win a lot of them, especially in certain areas, you need a lot of friends,” Schiavone said.

The former mobster was a key witness in a trial that ended three  years ago when life sentences against 16 Camorra bosses – including his cousin Francesco – were upheld by Italy’s highest appeals court. The legal case lasted almost 12 years.

In a BBC interview published on Thursday, Schiavone said he testified against his former accomplices, becoming a mafia turncoat, because he felt guilty about the pollution.

“I did it when I knew that people were doomed to die from cancer. They had injected all this land – millions of cubic metres – with toxic substances. A scary cocktail,” he said.

“Even relatives of Camorristi are falling ill from cancer. How stupid,” Father Patriciello, the local priest, said. He plans to take part in a popular protest due to take place in Naples on November 16.

Meanwhile, authorities have pledged clean-up action. On November 6, experts were due to begin checking the coastline in Licola, just north of Naples.

“Those who have polluted Campania (the region around Naples) will have to pay,” said Agriculture Minister Nunzia De Girolamo.

L-ambjent tagħna, is-saħħa tagħna

Ftit riflessjonijiet tiegħi wara s-seminar tal-Fondazzjoni Ideat li fih ħadt sehem nhar is-Sibt f’isem Alternattiva Demokratika.

L-ewwel nett jiena diżappuntat bin-nuqqas ta’ parteċipazzjoni ta’ rappreżentanti tal-PN. Kienet opportunita unika ta’ diskussjoni mhux biss bejn rapprezentanti tat-tlett partiti politiċi iżda ukoll ma esperti u attivisti ambjentali. Dan ipoġġi f’perspettiva reali l-eżerċizzju li qiegħed jikkordina d-delegat speċjali ta’ Lawrence Gonzi. Simon Busuttil qiegħed jitħabat biex jorganizza l-laqgħat mas-soċjeta’ ċivili, imbagħad meta jiġu l-inviti għal diskussjoni jiġu injorati. Prova oħra tas-superfiċjalita’ tal-politika ta’ Lawrence Gonzi. Li iżjed milli jisma’ l-karba tal-miġugħ huwa interessat f’pontijiet elettorali. Mhuwiex interessat kif ser jissolvew il-problemi (li ma ħoloqhomx kollha hu!) imma hu interessat biss fil-voti.

Issa niġi għas-sustanza.

L-ilma huwa element mill-iktar essenzjali aħna u nħarsu lejn l-interazzjoni bejn l-ambjent u s-saħħa. Huwa neċessarju li nifhmu l-ħtieġa illi nieħdu ħsieb iktar tal-ilma bħala riżors essenzjali għall-ħajja. Għal kull ħajja. Mhux biss għal ħajja umana iżda ukoll biex tisseddaq l-ekosistema li minna l-bniedem jifforma biss parti żgħira. L-ilma tal-pjan hu fi stat disastruż u għaldaqstant huwa iktar essenzjali li noqgħodu attenti bl-esperimenti li jsiru minn żmien għal żmien. Il-proġett pilota li tħabbar reċentement biex isir artifical aquifer recharge bl-użu ta’ ilma riċiklat mid-drenaġġ huwa wieħed riskjuż. Hemm ħtieġa ta’ attenzjoni kbira f’dawn it-tip ta’ esperimenti li ma nispiċċawx nagħmlu iktar ħsara milli ġid.

L-impatti ambjentali ma jiddependux biss minn dak li nagħmlu aħna f’ Malta. Jiddependi ukoll minn dak li jagħmel ħaddieħor. Per eżempju it-42 vapur mgħobbi bi skart tossiku u nukleari li l-Mafja Taljan għerrqet fil-Mediterran għandhom ikunu  ta’ tħassib għalina. L-ilma tagħna 60% ġej mill-baħar. Il-ħut ma josservax fruntieri u t-tniġġiż fil-baħar għaldaqstant għandu impatt ħafna ikbar milli naħsbu.

Waqt id-diskussjoni issemmew ħafna aspetti ambjentali li huma ta’ preokkupazzjoni.

Naħseb li l-iktar materja inkwetanti hi n-nuqqas ta’ kredibilita’ tal-istituzzjonijiet. Waħda wara l-oħra dawn l-istituzzjonijiet huma kompromessi għax m’għandhomx is-snien li jippermettulhom jaġixxu. Dan in-nuqqas joħroġ mill-fatt li l-Gvern jappunta l-membri waħdu. Mhux biss mingħajr ma jqis x’taħseb is-soċjeta ċivili dwarhom imma fuq kollox prinċipalment a bażi tal-lealta’ politika tagħhom.

Għal dan l-iskop Alternattiva Demokratika ilha żmien tinsisti illi huwa meħtieg li l-ħatra ta’ membri tal-Bord tal-Awtoritajiet tkun soġġetta għal public hearing fil-Parliament. Dan il-proċess jassigura li min ikun ser jinħatar ikollu l-opportunita li jispjega x’inhuma l-kompetenzi tiegħu/tagħha kif ukoll iwieġeb għal mistoqsijiet dwar kif l-imġieba pubblika tiegħu tista’ teffettwa l-ħidma tiegħu/tagħha fil-ħatra maħsuba.

Din hi proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika fil-Programm Elettorali tal-2008 li l-Partit Laburista fl-Opposizzjoni uża fil-Parlament huwa u jikkritika ir-riforma tal-MEPA. Għamel tajjeb, biex ma ninftiehemx ħazin.

Huwa importanti li l-Parlament jieħu lura mingħand il-Gvern il-poter tal-ħatra tal-awtoritajiet kif ukoll huwa neċessarju li l-Parlament ikun kapaċi jissorvelja hu l-ħidma ta’ dawn l-awtoritajiet. B’hekk ikun assigurat iktar koordinazzjoni effettiva kif ukoll iktar kontabilita’.

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.