Dip into the minds of the administrators of this country right now and they’re not thinking about the government’s budget. They’re not figuring out the complex legislative drafting and the long hours of effort to implement the range of measures announced by the finance minister. There are too many uncertainties to make thought like that last more than a flash in their minds.
The country’s administrators are like staff asked by their bosses to focus on their daily routines when they’ve just been told that a large asteroid is rolling inexorably towards the planet bearing the doom of an extinction-level incident. All the daily bustle of their previous lives seems too redundant now.
A couple of newspapers a few days ago published explicit conclusions that were more quietly being made by people who haven’t lost the skills they acquired as toddlers with those join-the-numbered-dots puzzles. Let’s list the dots.
Daphne Caruana Galizia pointed the first ones out, unveiling all that was odd from the outset with the privatisation of three Maltese public hospitals. She explained what only some of us understood: front men, offshore companies and smooth-talking operators like Ram Tumuluri are not normal for a public contract. They’re red flags that something very rotten is going on.
Then came the detail that the government had signed an agreement with the hospitals’ buyers even before the government ever put the hospitals up for sale. That was a bigger red flag.
Then there was the fact that, within two years of the contract, all VGH managed to achieve was a hole in the ground in Rabat and, at one point, they didn’t have enough money to pay salaries, which forced them to take out a pay day loan, putting up St Luke’s Hospital as collateral. That was a screaming clue.
Next, when VGH gave up, the government did not exercise its right to take the hospitals back but, instead, let VGH sell the hospitals to someone else and run off with millions of euros with nothing to show for it. Chris Fearne called that the “real deal”. It was the tail end of a gross scam.
This was more than enough for Repubblika to argue in court that an inquiry should be opened. Not that it was easy. A judge blocked the process and Repubblika had to start from scratch. The inquiry started without other major indicators of wrongdoing that were yet to surface.
Like how the first public appearance by Joseph Muscat after his resignation in disgrace was as an advisor to Steward, who had, thanks to him, bought the hospitals concession. And how, sometime later, this newspaper would show that Muscat received tens of thousands of euros from the company that received the payment from Steward for the hospitals’ sale, which Muscat had brokered.
It takes no genius to realise that, even though Angelo Gafà and his police department refuse to see it, serious crime has been perpetrated here and Muscat is allegedly at the very heart of this.
Then there’s the Appeals Court decision a few days ago that confirmed the cancellation of the hospitals’ sale. The first court’s grounds for suspension was “fraud”: that one side – VGH – cheated the government and, therefore, the contract was invalid. The higher court disagreed. This wasn’t fraud. The government wasn’t the victim here. This was “collusion”, a crime that takes two sides – VGH and the government – to cheat the Maltese public. That’s a ruling by the three most senior judges of this country.
Muscat has read that decision. Gafà too. As did Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Chris Cardona, Edward Scicluna and Victoria Buttigieg. And a few others in and around this scam.
The big question will be how Victoria Buttigieg, the attorney general, will act next- Manuel Delia
The inquiry Repubblika started four years ago is, by definition, four years old. It’s bound to wrap up at some point and people, such as a couple of other newspapers last week, have been speculating that it’s nearing completion. It is hard to imagine that an inquiry that has looked into this stuff has missed the meteor rushing towards the government. All the clues, and more we can’t have seen without the powers of subpoena that the inquiry enjoys, point to the conclusion that Muscat must be very, very uncomfortable right now.
Gafà’s behaviour is very familiar. His refusal to investigate “while the inquiry is ongoing” has no basis in law. On the contrary, it ignores the legal obligation of the police to act on every suspicion of crime, especially serious crime. There are no gods in our law but Gafà treats Muscat as one.
The big question will be how Buttigieg, the attorney general, will act next. When she receives a criminal inquiry she can do a number of things. She can send it back with questions. She can ask for the police’s help with some things she’d want to clear. She can launch a prosecution. And she can put a ribbon around the inquiry report and bury it in a cellar.
When she read the devastating content of the Pilatus Bank inquiry, she allowed most of the suspects to get away. There was always some risk that the Pilatus Bank suspects might offer to volunteer direct knowledge they would have had had of what Muscat often called the biggest lie in Maltese political history. They could answer the question whether it was true that Pilatus handled a fat bribe for the then prime minister from the fabulously corrupt Aliyevs of Azerbaijan.
Buttigieg rubbed off attempted murder charges against a man who shot dozens of live rounds in the general direction of uniformed police officers trying to stop him and his accomplices from robbing a bank. There was some risk the individual could testify to the participation of two of Muscat’s ministers in armed robbery.
The nation’s administrators are paralysed. They wonder what happens next. Will it be the prosecution of the still much-loved former leader of the Labour Party and a political crisis that will make 2019 feel like a tea party? Or will it be impunity for the criminals who have captured the Maltese State and the poisonous danger to the people in institutions and outside them who have worked so hard to expose the truth only to be strung up by the State for lynching at the hands of the criminals? After what they did to Caruana Galizia we know that impunity won’t last for long without consequence.
Instead of running the country, they’re now transfixed with collective anxiety and morbid anticipation.