But there’s no evidence! How can you believe someone if they have no evidence?
Well the answer to that is pretty simple, there is such a thing as conjecture which makes Daphne Caruana Galizia’s allegations easier to believe and while these points below do not mean that the allegations are true, they might shed some light on why a lot of people are ready to believe without seeing the documents.
1) The Panama Papers scandal
This is probably one of the most damning reasons. The Prime Minister has made one fatal mistake in this legislature and that is not getting rid of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri when the Panama Papers scandal broke.
Whichever way you see it, two very powerful people within the government, and very close to the Prime Minister, were caught in very unethical dealings because whatever way this is spun, opening a secret company in a tax haven which is well known never to cooperate with jurisdictions, is wrong. Not only is it wrong but as the chairman of the European Parliament investigating committee (PANA) stated, the setup looks very much like a classic money laundering arrangement.
In the leader’s debate, Joseph Muscat did admit that keeping Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri might have been a wrong move on his part yet to this day he still hasn’t done anything about it. Not only that, but he has supported Keith Schembri in his defiance of the PANA committee by not taking action to force him to appear before it. Meanwhile Glenn Beddingfield used his taxpayer’s blog to attack the same committee set up by the European Parliament to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration.
2) Mizzi interfering with the oil procurement to favour SOCAR
In 2014, Konrad Mizzi was also found to have interfered with the fuel procurement at Enemalta. Back then he had asked the board to choose SOCAR over other tenderers. The NAO carried out an investigation on this and found that this led to a reported €14 million in hedging losses. That’s the minimum of the losses reported since the price of oil continued to crash throughout 2014 and 2015, so the likely possibility is that the losses were much higher considering the volumes of oil purchased and the huge drop in market price.
3) The gas power station
The procurement of the power station had a few too many coincidences which led to questions. It was coincidental that the tendered cost for the Electrogas power station was almost exactly equal to the estimate published by Konrad Mizzi prior to the election. As events now show, from Electrogas' statements the actual cost has been about 100 million more which leads many people to suspect the project had secretly been worked on prior to the elections.
The procurement procedure itself was accelerated in order to award the contract as early as possible so that the two-year completion date (March 2015) promised in the election campaign could be met (it wasn’t and the power station is 2 years late). The short time allowed for the tenderers to prepare their bids obviously was to the benefit of any company which had previously carried out work on the project.
Some questions even arose during the due diligence portion of the adjudication. Part of the standard adjudication process is to carry out a due diligence exercise and verify that the tenderers and all members of the tendering consortium have the capability and wherewithal to carry out the project. Even at the time of tendering, the lead member of the consortium, the African company Gasol was in poor financial shape and should have been rejected, together with the rest of the consortium. This company was almost bankrupt during the project and had to withdraw.
Furthermore, companies with corrupt dealings should also have been rejected. Both Siemens and even more so SOCAR have some history of corruption. SOCAR is the state oil company of a state considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world, and both should have been rejected on that basis. And what about the provisions of state guarantees - both to guarantee loans taken by the consortium and to guarantee the Power Purchase Agreement - were these included in the original EOI? It is very unlikely they were as these guarantees are never given to privately funded projects.
4) The redacted energy contracts
Yesterday Malta celebrated the start of an 18-year Power Purchase Agreement which to this day has not been put up to public scrutiny since the published contracts were redacted. This PPA effectively guarantees that whether or not the plant is used 24 hours a day for 365 days in each and every year, or for zero hours, Enemalta will still pay Electrogas in full for the next 18 years. This apart from the government guarantees for Electrogas to get loans to build the plant makes this a completely risk free investment for Electrogas with a very good rate of return.
And for a government which was so loud when promising transparency it really did not deliver when it came to energy contracts. Ironically this didn’t even happen when the previous administration decided to table the BWSC contract which according to Labour propaganda was riddled with corruption. The cherry on top of the cake - it wasn’t! Both the NAO and the PAC didn’t find any evidence of corruption.
The NAO came out with the highly unprofessional comment that there was smoke but they could not find fire. If such was the case they should have continued to investigate or roped in the police if they lacked investigative competence, until they found the so-called fire. However in the quite exhaustive and voluminous report prepared by the NAO, there was no evidence of corruption. Similarly neither the PAC or the 'commission against corruption' found any evidence supporting the allegations of corruption.
5) The series of unfortunate events
As soon as the allegations hit the news there was what was described as unusual activity going on at Pilatus bank. The owner of the bank together with the Risk Manager were seen coming out from a back door with heavy suitcases and tried everything to escape the media following them. Later news about a flight leaving to Azerbaijan at 3am was reported, a flight which later went to Dubai.
6) Lack of immediate police action
The police has a duty to investigate any such allegations and they should have taken prompt action as soon as the story surfaced. Yet, on this occasion, the police commissioner only intervened when the Prime Minister requested it, through his lawyers. This was around 12 hours after the story broke.
7) All the numerous other scandals
Cafe Premier, the Gafferena case, Australia house, the “American” university, Libyan medical visas, Algerian visas, sale of passports, schools’ construction and all these towers sprouting in each and every direction. The list seems to go on and this same list defines the government’s lack of ethics and continues reinforcing Daphne's allegations.
Whether these allegations turn out to be true or false, the real loser in all this will remain the general public. On one hand we have a government which might be riddled with corruption, on the other a weak Opposition, both are bad for democracy. And what about the international reputation of Malta together with the Malta financial services industry? The collapse of this industry would have a catastrophic impact on Malta's economy apart from the adverse impact on future investment, and we can all wave goodbye to that much bragged about €100 million surplus.
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