The Labour government would have us believe that their tolerance to very dubious behaviour, including at the very top echelon closest to the Prime Minister, is of no effect to our reputation in the world. When they occasionally admit that there might be indeed repercussions from the said excesses, their narrative morphs into pointing fingers to our very same kin, the Maltese who love their country and would see it prosper above anything else. They end up pictured as traitors or some sort of malignant whistle blowers with “the foreigners”.

So is the underdog narrative of Joseph Muscat. Feed the people the feeling of a brave nation under siege, where the acts of their leaders cannot but be noble and where any criticism is driven simply by irresistible jealousy.

That underdog narrative is now past its sell-by date. Two developments last week point clearly in that direction.

Last week we read the damning report of the European Banking Authority practically telling us that the FIAU, the national body entrusted with uncovering and investigating money laundering, has basically abetted practices within Pilatus Bank which may have facilitated the same money laundering they were meant to prevent.

My view is that this alone is ground for resignation of the minister responsible for the FIAU. I have no particular bad blood for Edward Scicluna. On the contrary, I consider him a fine gentleman and a good economist. My objection is not to his personal conduct in general but to his tolerance of the doubtful and dangerous practices of those around him.

The report by the EBA says that “the FIAU failed to conduct an effective supervision of Pilatus Bank due to a number of failures, including procedural deficiencies and lack of supervisory actions by the FIAU”. The EBA points out also that the FIAU simply omitted to carry out an on-site inspection of Pilatus Bank when this was requested by the Malta Financial Services Authority.

This week has been a painful one at the Nationalist Party, and yet I am convinced that relief will come after pain

Any objective and independent mind reading these findings and having our important banking and financial services at heart would take stock of the reputational threat they pose to our jurisdiction and act accordingly. Instead, in reaction to the EBA report, an FIAU representative said that the FIAU had “serious reservations on the process adopted by EBA”.

Sorry? Come again? You are caught in gross negligence in the supervision of a bank which ended up in the middle of an international controversy, whose chairman is facing 125 years imprisonment and you retort with “serious reservations”? Is this the standard of governance that our citizens deserve? They certainly deserve better.

The honourable minister seems to forget that the banking industry in this country and the booming financial services industry owe their success to thousands of hard-working professionals who every day prospect for new opportunities, waking up early to run a business based on reputation and integrity. By taking the EBA report lightly the minister is putting their achievements and their daily bread in peril.

The EBA is an independent and reputable European authority that has only one thing at heart – the solidity and integrity of European banking. Its report is not meant as a provocation but as a warning signal that what happens in Malta does not stay in Malta, as the Labour government would make have us believe.

The second incident within the underdog narrative this week is the Egrant inquiry. We take full stock of its conclusions. My decisions in consequence leave no ambiguity. The Nationalist Party is adamant on drawing clear distinctions between allegation and fact.

The Labour government and its various propaganda machines want to sell the Egrant inquiry as the Pope’s blessing on a virgin white track record. And yet, behind a sobbing Prime Minister on Sunday we could all spot the uncomfortable smile of Minister Konrad Mizzi. Together with Keith Schembri and the mysterious owner of Egrant, they opened companies with a view to absconding funds from the reputable financial services industry which Minister Scicluna is now also letting down. That is indeed a fact.

The Nationalist Party will be there to expose the hypocrisy of Labour’s underdog narrative. Most importantly, time has now come for the party to reach out with its own narrative of a forward-looking country, attracting investment with a high moral ground and not by condoning and abetting malpractices.

This week has been a painful one at the Nationalist Party, and yet I am convinced that relief will come after pain, that these days are the prelude to the next phase, where the party becomes once again the vector to realise the aspirations of the people of Malta and Gozo.


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