President Myriam Spiteri Debono told an interviewer that people who describe Malta as “a mafia state” are “stretching it too far”. Yet, unlike her predecessors, she said she was willing to entertain a discussion with those who say that, so as “to fix the issues that are causing it”.

“It” presumably being their tendency to exaggerate.

There are three questions that must precede the inquiry whether Malta is a mafia state. Is the mafia real? Does the phenomenon exist in Malta? Has it infiltrated the Maltese State? Here’s why the answers are yes, yes and yes.

Between 2010 and 2017 there were 19 bomb attacks in Malta. Eighteen of them targeted gangland criminals or people in business with them. Though bombing went out of fashion after the arrests of the Degiorgios and the Agiuses, you still got the drive-by shootings, the gun attacks and the disappearances. That is at the very least evidence of the existence of organised criminal groups fighting over territory.

Except for the aftermath of the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, almost none of those incidents were followed by arrests, let alone prosecutions. The odd survivors of the attempts, shorn of limbs or endowed with bullet fragments in their skulls, said nothing to the police about who may have tried to kill them. But, even without their help, you’d expect to see some police activity. Until the FBI and the Dutch police landed here in October 2017, there was almost none. At the very least, that suggests that the police were pathetically weak and incompetent. Likely, it means they stood idly by, complicit in the crimi­nal activities that were going on.

What activities? Principally drug trafficking. But also fuel smuggling, people trafficking, illicit gambling  and racketeering.

I don’t know if the gangs involved in these activities have initiation rites, kiss each other on both cheeks and have a weakness for rare steaks, expensive wives and loose mistresses. I’m not writing a screenplay for a local version of Goodfellas. I’m interested in a phenomenon of hierarchical structures – which is socio-babble for ‘businesses’ – who pursue their economic interests through coercion, when necessary, with violence, and who are preserved by an unspoken code of silence. The “mafia does not exist” mantra is a – perhaps unwitting – part of that code.

It’s not all blue-collar. Malta’s gaming industry has been systemically used by Italian gangland bosses to launder their money. Kleptocratic embezzlers from Azerbaijan, Libya, Venezuela and other places have used Maltese banks to wash their loot. The crimes may look different from peddling drugs or stolen fuel. The common factor of the success of those criminal activities is the unwillingness or the inability of the Maltese State to police them.

This country, its state, does not want to prosecute organised crime

Billions of euros flow through Maltese banks, brass plate structures you never hear of until someone is arrested in the US. Statistically, a portion of that money must be dirty and, yet, nobody is ever prosecuted. That alone must mean that drops from that river of dirty money are finding their way into the pockets of officials, paid to close their eyes.

Callously, when faced by the world’s pressure after the killing of Caruana Galizia, Maltese officials spent a couple of years prosecuting village greengrocers for cashing social security cheques for their half-starved customers in exchange for artichokes and tangerines. And, now, they’ve stopped doing that as well.

The FIAU issues fines that make headlines. The fines are inevitably struck down by the courts because proceedings are entirely free of basic procedural safeguards. Temporary asset freezes have been all but abolished. The odd accused is compensated for any reputational inconvenience with government contracts.

Everybody is happy with these rites of futility. And, then, there’s grand corruption, perpetrated by ministers, yet untouched by police officers and prose­cutors who appear to think their job is to guarantee the impunity of politicians, not to protect citizens from the greedy abuse of people in power.

All this can be summed up in a three-word haiku: impunity and omertà. Criminals can do as they please and everyone shuts up about it. This is only possible because these criminal interests are deeply embedded in the State. You can be generous and say that the botched and half-hearted prosecution of Pilatus Bank is the product of gross incompetence. I’m not generous.

It’s not that we can’t do policing and prosecution. This country can do most things it sets it mind on. This country, its State, does not want to prosecute organised crime. And there’s only one explanation for that. The State is organised crime.

If you want just one reason to think the government is governed by mafia interests, think of its declared unwillingness to follow the recommendation of the Caruana Galizia inquiry and introduce an anti-mafia law on the Italian model (416 bis) or the American model (RICO). Robert Abela said only people who want to besmirch Malta with the reputation of a mafia state want an anti-mafia law; which is an implicit charge that countries with laws designed to contain the mafia do so because they are mafia states.

Malta won’t have an anti-mafia law on its books but it has a law that criminalises genocide. Does that make us a genocidal country? Or merely a country that considers genocide illegal and that will punish it should it ever happen here?

Consider that an anti-mafia law would be specifically designed to flush out and punish criminal infiltration in democratic institutions. RICO has been used against mayors and congressmen in America. 416 bis in Italy is used to block the mutual flows of power and influence between politics and crime.

The easiest thing for a mafia-free Maltese government to do is to adopt an anti-mafia law. Which is why they can’t do it.

They can’t follow any of the other Daphne inquiry recommendations either. They can’t have unexplained wealth orders because they have unexplained wealth. They can’t criminalise abuse of power and obstruction of justice because being able to abuse power and obstruct justice with impunity are necessary tools for organised crime. They won’t reform political party funding or regulate lobbying because that’s where the mafia’s hold on politicians is transacted ritually and materially.

They can’t introduce half-way decent press protection laws because bombing journalists is expensive. It’s more efficient to secure omertà with intimidation in courts and outside them.

The Maltese State cannot have an anti-mafia law because it is the mafia. Prove me wrong, Madam President.

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