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raphael_vassallo
Raphael Vassallo

So the proof really was in the pudding after all...

Looking back today, the seeds of this mess can be seen to have been planted a year ago, when the prime minister failed to properly respond to the original Panama papers revelations

raphael_vassallo
Raphael Vassallo
25 April 2017, 7:30am
Regardless whether today’s allegations are ever proven beyond doubt or not, they would simply never have arisen in the first place had a proper investigation taken place when it should have: with all the necessary action taken at the outcome
Regardless whether today’s allegations are ever proven beyond doubt or not, they would simply never have arisen in the first place had a proper investigation taken place when it should have: with all the necessary action taken at the outcome
Or at least, in the kitchen. And it looks like it’s just been gobbled up, too... right under the authorities’ noses. 

But who knows? This is a little like writing on the eve of an election. No telling what will have changed by the time the article comes out on Sunday. It could be that everything remains as is (it’s Friday morning, by the way) and the ‘smoking gun’ remains elusive enough to feed all the inevitable ‘frame-up’ reactions... or it could be that, one way or another, we will finally know who’s lying and who isn’t.

One thing for sure: I won’t be making any predictions today. My last one misfired too badly for that. Next time I see a pregnant mountain, I’ll know well enough to give it a wide berth...

Misfired birth prognostications apart, however... a few possible outcomes are easy enough to foresee even from now. The way things have shaped up, it is unlikely that any definitive documentary evidence will be able to settle the matter once and for all. Unless there are other documents we don’t know about, the ones in the kitchen safe are now well and truly beyond reach. Agonisingly, we all saw them slipping away on live TV.

This leaves us with the scanned versions uploaded to Cloud, which... if they do emerge... will almost certainly be branded ‘fakes’ within seconds. If that happens (and it might happen by the time I finish this sentence), we would be back to exactly where we are right now.

It is, of course, easier to look backwards than forwards: and looking back today, the seeds of this mess can be seen to have been planted a year ago, when the prime minister failed to properly respond to the original Panama papers revelations. Regardless whether today’s allegations are ever proven beyond doubt or not, they would simply never have arisen in the first place had a proper investigation taken place when it should have: with all the necessary action taken at the outcome. 

You don’t even need the benefit of hindsight to reach that conclusion: with the obvious exception of the Labour media, every newspaper made this point in some form or other at the time. What hindsight does help to make visible, however, are a few possible reasons why that investigation never took place. 

And the view doesn’t get much better, either. Still looking in the same direction, a similar pattern can clearly be seen to have been repeated this week. Since around last Saturday, a whole series of increasingly calamitous allegations have been steadily dripping out in full public view: the least of which would have prompted an immediate enquiry in any other country. 

I was as hooked as the next person. Last night, I even passed up the opportunity of watching Jodorovsky’s ‘The Holy Mountain’ on the big screen (a chance that will probably never recur in my lifetime) to keep up with the flow.

So I find it hard to digest that the Police Commissioner would have been calmly eating rabbit at an Mgarr restaurant, when the long-awaited bombshell was finally dropped after days of constant air raid warnings.  If the NET news team could get to Pilatus bank in time to film the getaway, it is simply astounding that not a single department of the country’s entire law enforcement capability could do the same.

And OK, the Net crew would obviously have benefited from an advance tip-off. But still... I mean... the bank had been named online; even the location of the goddamn safe was known to every last citizen of this country by around 10 last night. So what more did they need? GPS directions to Ta’ Xbiex?

Then as now, it is a case of the proper authorities failing to take the necessary action. This might not, in itself, ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ any allegations... but it doesn’t exactly look good either, does it?

This brings me to another important thing that has changed since yesterday evening. Until that video emerged of the fleeing Pilatus owner with the briefcase... the entire compendium of allegations, from A to Z, had only one source. Daphne was the one making the claims; Daphne was (in my book, at any rate) the one who was expected to prove them. 

That obligation still stands, as far as I can see... but the simple fact is that Daphne is now no longer the only one to whom it applies. We are now also owed an explanation as to why an obviously crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle was allowed to so easily disappear. 

A second thing to have changed since yesterday is that Joseph Muscat has now hit back with claims of a frame-up. I won’t begrudge him that line of defence: frame-ups have, after all, been known to happen before. But there are two vital ingredients to any frame-up. There has to be a clear motive to distort the truth; and there must at least be reasonable cause to doubt – on the basis of what is actually visible - that the truth has been distorted.

No problem with the first ingredient: Labour commentators have helpfully even condensed it into a hashtag for us: ‘frameup4power’. As motives go, it is pretty standard. Who know the utmost limits of what one would be capable of doing for power? History is full of much more glaring examples than this (if, naturally, this does turn out to be a frame-up).

But the second ingredient, at the time of writing, is missing. At least, I can’t see it myself. Meanwhile, consistency demands that we approach the two allegations with the same healthy degree of scepticism. To this day, I do not blindly accept Daphne’s allegations without clear proof. So far, what has emerged all strongly suggests that an awful lot is being hidden from view... but it doesn’t follow that the truth is exactly as it is being described to us, either.

That applies equally to the counter allegation. It is clearly not enough, at this stage, for Muscat to simply throw up his hands and say ‘I have been framed’. To be plausible, that claim would have to be properly substantiated, too.

Admittedly, you can’t expect ‘evidence’ of the kind Muscat himself is (quite righty) demanding. Daphne will hardly have hidden a signed confession note in a safe somewhere... (though it would be a killer twist, wouldn’t it? ‘It was me! I did it! Mwa-ha-ha-hahhah!’, etc.) 

Unlike her own, very specific allegations – which involve money transfers, account ownership details... things that usually leave a trail – it is not something you can prove by pulling a magic  document out of a hat. 

But if I am to take the frame-up hypothesis seriously – because that, too, is a serious allegation – I would expect the prime minister to point towards all the precise circumstances he thinks are suspicious; to tell us, in a word, what he thinks doesn’t add up.

Perhaps he will do that on tonight’s Xarabank debate (another new development since I started writing this, by the way) Perhaps the death-blow will have been struck by then; or perhaps both claims and counter-claims will simply be left dangling before us as they are right now... all the way until an election I imagine is now very imminent.

Whatever the case, that’s all past my deadline, so there’s no point in speculating further.  

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