Notes from a Panama com­pany

I caught sight of a Depart­ment of In­for­ma­tion pho­to­graph as I be­gan to write this col­umn, show­ing Kon­rad Mizzi, Min­is­ter Within the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter, prom­i­nent in a row of Mal­tese cabi­net min­is­ters, with Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent JeanClaud

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www.daph­necaru­a­na­gal­ Just look at them. They have no money to pay for can­cer treat­ment for pa­tients who are forced to beg off Marie Louise Coleiro and her fund-rais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. They sign off on the use of ex­pired medicines to treat pa­tients in the hos­pi­tal’s in­ten­sive ther­apy unit. They make life hell for those who are gen­uinely de­pen­dent on so­cial wel­fare.

They scrimp and save where money needs to be spent – and then they put hun­dreds if not thou­sands of their cronies and fa­mil­iars on the state pay­roll, spend mil­lions on di­rect or­ders and con­tracts for their mates, and now they fly off to Brus­sels en masse, the en­tire cabi­net with their mul­ti­ple en­tourages and co­ter­ies of hang­ers-on, per­sonal as­sis­tants and communications co­or­di­na­tors (which one has Kon­rad Mizzi taken with him?) and run up an­other lorry-load of mas­sive bills for the rest of us to pay.

Why are they there? Ah yes, they told us: “for var­i­ous meet­ings”. Var­i­ous meet­ings – what, all at once? With dif­fer­ent peo­ple? What an ex­tra­or­di­nary co­in­ci­dence.

To the mind of an old-hand com­mu­ni­ca­tor like me, it looks like noth­ing more or less than a de­lib­er­ately con­ceived pic­to­rial state­ment, a tac­tic de­vised by one of the hand­somely-paid strate­gists they’ve put on the pay­roll in the Court of Joseph the First.

By hav­ing the en­tire cabi­net pho­tographed to­gether, in­clud­ing Kon­rad ‘Panama’ Mizzi, with Joseph Mus­cat and JeanClaude Juncker, they’re send­ing out a vis­ual mes­sage. That mes­sage is: “You say Kon­rad Mizzi is cor­rupt and that his Panama af­fairs are shock­ing and to­tally un­ac­cept­able in a Euro­pean con­text. But here he is, with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent, with our Prime Min­is­ter, and with all the min­is­ters ranged up be­side him. We have Euro­pean ap­proval and the rest of you had bet­ter shut up and XYZ off.”

This is noth­ing more than a pre-emp­tive strike be­fore Kon­rad Mizzi is “in­vited” to an­swer the ques­tions of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s Panama Pa­pers in­quiry com­mit­tee, which he will prob­a­bly refuse to do.

It is an­other de­lib­er­ate tac­tic to un­der­mine the au­thor­ity of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, just as the Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to in­stall that legacy of a Mintof­fian past, Leo Brin­cat, in the Euro­pean Court of Au­di­tors de­spite the de­ci­sion of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

With this govern­ment, you’ve got to de­con­struct ev­ery­thing that’s done and said.

And right there, quite frankly, you have the per­fect ex­am­ple of the Es­tab­lish­ment pro­tect­ing its own.

To make mat­ters worse, Juncker – who is fac­ing a storm of crit­i­cism of his own – heaped praise on the most cor­rupt govern­ment Malta has had since 1987. “It is no sur­prise that Malta is very pre­pared for the up­com­ing EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dency,” he said. But how would he know?

What I hear, prac­ti­cally from the horse’s mouth, is the very op­po­site: that the sit­u­a­tion is a mess, with the left hand not know­ing what the right is do­ing, with a mass of to­tally un­suit­able tem­po­rary pol­icy of­fi­cers hired for the du­ra­tion (one of them be­ing, for ex­am­ple, Yana Mintoff’s son, who was doubt­less hired for his phe­nom­e­nal pol­icy at­tributes), and that the or­gan­i­sa­tion and li­ai­son are a farce.

“Malta is a se­ri­ous coun­try,” Juncker said, “and down to earth. It is a small coun­try with great am­bi­tions.”

Yes, and with a cabi­net min­is­ter, a prime min­is­ter’s chief of staff and pos­si­bly also a prime min­is­ter who gave in­struc­tions, be­fore the cabi­net had even been sworn in in March 2013, for the in­cor­po­ra­tion of se­cret com­pa­nies in Panama shel­tered by trusts in New Zealand. To­tally se­ri­ous, wouldn’t you say?

Aside from the fact that Juncker is a no­to­ri­ously heavy drinker, the govern­ment of his own coun­try, Lux­em­bourg, was the first to be in­volved in a scan­dal based on doc­u­men­ta­tion leaked to the In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists: Lux Leaks.

So, it’s no won­der there’s a fel­low feel­ing be­tween them.

They’re a great set to be talk­ing about fi­nan­cial ser­vices in the Euro­pean Union.

The sleazy Juncker – I re­ally can’t stand men who drink heav­ily and work the room lov­ing every­body up re­gard­less has prob­a­bly been sin­gle-hand­edly most re­spon­si­ble for the lousy rep­u­ta­tion the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has among cer­tain Brexit cam­paign­ers in the United King­dom.

His face and name were all over the shop in the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign, and this is ex­actly the kind of thing that drives peo­ple away: the sight of Juncker lov­ing up a cor­rupt cabi­net min­is­ter like Kon­rad Mizzi and fawn­ing all over the prime min­is­ter who pro­tects him be­cause he prob­a­bly has a Panama out­fit of his own.

Juncker ac­tu­ally said: “I like Prime Min­is­ter Mus­cat. I won’t say that I love him. Well, maybe I do love Prime Min­is­ter Mus­cat.”

Yes, and that’s why you let him sell pass­ports to the Euro­pean Union’s Schen­gen Zone and al­low him to com­mit what should be the ex­tra­or­di­nary faux-pas of forc­ing you to be pho­tographed with one of his min­is­ters who is at the cen­tre of a sig­nif­i­cant scan­dal, with his name splashed all over the in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

Have an­other drink, Juncker, and don’t get too ex­cited about your cor­rupt pals from Malta – be­cause the last thing we need now in this is­land is the growth of anti-EU sen­ti­ment fu­elled by the sight of you say­ing how much you love our highly sus­pect prime min­is­ter and his Panama-hat favourite min­is­ter.

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