“If you want to lead you can’t start by hiding stuff until it’s too late for those who voted you in to do anything about it.” This was David Thake’s advice to Adrian Delia in August 2017. Delia was running for PN leader but refused to publish his declaration of assets. He promised he would do so only if elected.

Thake should have taken his own advice. Sadly, he didn’t. He’s now engineered his own downfall and dealt a serious blow to his leader, Bernard Grech.

“Calling a journalist a blogger and trying to strum up some cyber mob against her is no replacement for a proper press conference, where, after full disclosure of your financial situation, you answer the questions posed by journalists,” Thake commented about Delia’s hysterical attacks on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Was that full disclosure of your financial situation Thake insisted on? He certainly expected much higher standards of Delia than he did of himself.

On December 30, 2021, Times of Malta revealed that Thake’s company, Vanilla Telecoms, owed €270,440 in taxes; €233,515 were unpaid VAT and the rest interest and penalties. Thake came out fighting. He patronisingly explained that the company owed VAT because it had “always scrupulously declared every cent of its sales”. Thake seems to be expecting the public’s gratitude for upholding the law. He believes he deserves merit for declaring his sales. “Besides,” he commented “the VAT Department never requested payment for any amount.” It is his duty to pay his VAT. He shouldn’t need a bill from the VAT Department.

“A voluntary repayment programme is being finalised,” he assured us. There is nothing voluntary about paying your dues. It is a civic duty. Paying VAT is not a favour you bestow on the nation.

The party stuck its neck out for Thake. It accused the prime minister of calling for action “against a PN MP after his company did something that Abela himself had urged for”. Abela hadn’t urged businesses not to pay VAT. Grech’s excuse that he will wait for the standards commissioner’s conclusions before taking action is no better than Abela’s default answer.

Thake claimed he had “been totally transparent about his company’s tax dealings even though it is a private enterprise which makes being transparent ‘a big deal’”. But Thake hadn’t been transparent at all.

Only days later, MaltaToday revealed that another of Thake’s companies, Maltashopper Ltd, had €550,000 in outstanding VAT. Thake desperately tried to defend himself claiming that the half a million euros VAT payments due had only been accumulated since the start of the pandemic and were deferred only as a result of the government’s COVID-19 schemes.

Nobody was buying his excuses any longer. Thake admitted he failed to file any accounts with the Malta Business Registry for 10 whole years. It wasn’t his fault, Thake protested. He had taken action “many months ago” to appoint new company auditors and engage new people to compile Maltashopper’s financial accounts.

So, it was the auditors’ fault. He frantically backpedalled. “All overdue accounts will be filed this month, all the relevant penalties for this administrative failure will be paid in full,” Thake deflected. Paying the penalties is not a benevolent gesture. Penalties must be paid. And Thake has no choice in the matter.

By demolishing any trust his party had built, David Thake damaged the nation- Kevin Cassar

Thake lost the plot completely. He threatened to sue the Labour Party’s media for libel. He resigned from the shadow cabinet and suspended himself from the parliamentary group. He challenged the prime minister: “Let us sit down in front of journalists with our tax returns – if you have nothing to hide, I will resign immediate­ly from parliament.” What does the prime minister have to do with this? What sort of puerile gimmick are you playing at?

Thake should resign his parliamentary seat, not because of the prime minister’s dishonest secrecy but because of his own. Thake not only repeatedly failed his duty for years on end but has utterly mishandled the whole situation.

When the first story of the hundreds of thousands of euros in Vanilla Telecoms arrears broke, Thake knew he owned another company with double that amount in VAT dues. But he kept Maltashopping Ltd’s arrears secret.

Did he tell Grech about the additional €550,000 when the first story broke? If he didn’t, he betrayed the trust of his leader and should have had the whip withdrawn and not allowed the pantomime of a self-suspension. For putting the leader and the party in such an embarrassing situation he should have been kicked out.

There are burning questions Thake needs to answer. But even thornier ones for Grech. Did Grech know about Thake’s other arrears and still defended him, keeping the public in the dark? Or did Thake withhold the information from Grech until it was divulged by MaltaToday?

Whichever it is, the biggest loser is Grech.

If Grech knew and still chose to defend Thake and keep him on his shadow cabinet, Grech’s judgement is seriously deficient.

If Grech didn’t know, because Thake hadn’t told him, and Grech simply let Thake resign from the shadow cabinet, he is exposed as utterly weak. If Thake hadn’t told him, Grech should have meted the harshest penalty Thake’s betrayal deserved.

As for Thake, his position is entirely untenable. For one who demanded the highest standards of others, his own transgressions are monumental. He failed to file accounts for his company for 10 years. Someone who never filed his accounts cannot be trusted with power.

Thake failed to pay hundreds of thousands of euros due to the state. He blamed his auditors for his abysmal failures. Despite knowing he had other skeletons in his cupboard, which would be exposed sooner rather than later, he kept mum. He has embarrassed his party and humiliated his leader.

By demolishing any trust his party had built, Thake damaged the nation. Resigning his parliamentary seat is the only route left to preserve what little is left of his dignity.

David Thake has since informed the Nationalist Parliamentary group he will be resigning his parliamentary seat.

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