Joseph Muscat has made it. Competing on his own, he managed to scrape through with a miserable 50 per cent of the vote.
A total of seven building developers and other business people, some names unknown to the public until 2013, have ventured into football, heading football clubs, and have now pushed Muscat to head the Premier League committee.
There is a lot of legal money revolving around Maltese football. But, apart from legal money, there is also a lot of illegal money involved.
On April 29, 2021, Italian Chief of Police, Lamberto Giannini, told the Italian parliament that there is ample proof that Cosa Nostra is involved in illegal betting and online gaming.
And, in view of this, the mafia families were particularly interested in setting up iGaming companies in Malta.
Now what is the real situation on illegal football betting in Malta?
A few concrete examples.
Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia case, was caught by the police with €2 million cash, all coming from illegal betting on various sports.
The alleged mastermind of the Caruana Galizia assassination, Yorgen Fenech, was accused by the Italian police of trying to fix the following Italian football matches in 2014: Catania-Atalanta, Parma-Livorno, Napoli-Verona, Udinese-Sampdoria, Avellino-Reggina, Crotone-Trapani, Brescia-Juve Stabia – all intended to make money out of football betting.
Then, in 2016, the international Football Players’ Union revealed that football teams in the Maltese Premier League were the eighth-most corruptible out of 53 countries in Europe, while one out of six Maltese Premier football players had been approached by shady characters who had bribery as the foremost interest of their conversation.
But illegal money revolving around Maltese football teams is not only limited to club football. Sometimes, the bug has also hit the national team.
For example, in 2016 three- quarters of the players scheduled to play against Montenegro were approached to fix the score of the match. Times of Malta had reported that: “Nine players for Malta’s Under 21 national team had been offered bribes last March, asking them to lose a European championship qualifier match against Montenegro by three goals to nil.”
Eventually, we went on to lose 0-1 but the attempted bribery was discovered and a number of young football players were disqualified for life.
The Premier might only be the first step for Joseph Muscat. The MFA could eventually be a much more palatable affair for him- Arnold Cassola
So, being the supremo in charge of Maltese football involves a lot of responsibility. Whoever represents Maltese football at national and international level has to ensure not only that s/he is capable of managing the legal scores of millions in a proper and fair way but must also strive to ensure that the schemes concocted by the Italian Cosa Nostra and the Maltese mafia to generate dirty money are eradicated.
Muscat was named ‘Person of the Year’ for organised crime and corruption by a consortium of investigative journalists in 2019.
The man who accepted expensive gifts, dined and socialised with the alleged Daphne assassination mastermind, who is also pivotal in allegedly attempting to fix football matches in Italy and allegedly attempting to dope racing horses – through his associate, Nicholas Cachia – in France.
Why were building developers and other business people desperate to get Muscat at the helm? Are we sure ix-Xiħ is the right man to clean up our country’s football reputation?
In reality, the Premier League might only be the first step for Muscat. The Malta Football Association could eventually be a much more palatable affair for him.
There are tens, if not hundreds of millions of euros in legal and clean money revolving around the MFA.
In fact, the MFA has more financial resources than the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The president of the MFA is today Bjorn Vassallo. One of the vice presidents is a former PN candidate, Matt Paris. To be elected president, the non-PL Vassallo had to compete against the PL Chris Bonnett.
Vassallo had, therefore, roped in as his canvassers a number of staunch Taghna Lkollers, like Ray Barbara (Muscat’s secretary), Luke Dalli (Helena Dalli’s son), Trustin Farrugia Cann (Konrad Mizzi canvasser and football referee).
Paris gave up politics and later teamed up with Dalli in a new legal office.
After the election of Vassallo, Muscat clan’s hold on the MFA increased: Barbara’s son, Ishmael, was employed and a new commercial company called MFA Sports Plus was created, with Jason Micallef, former PL secretary general, heading it, and Dalli secretary of the board.
The situation today is that the MFA and subsidiaries are now inundated with Muscat’s Tagħna Lkoll people.
At the next MFA presidential election, in 2023, will all these switch from Bjorn to Joseph?
History has shown us that “Et tu Brute” U-turns occur quite regularly at high political levels.
Arnold Cassola is an independent candidate and former secretary general of the European Green Party.
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