The egg to omelette conundrum

Yet, neither Grech nor anyone from his campaign team has publicly reassured the public that the publication of these accounts will eventually be made. A public statement of such an intention should be made immediately

Pay your taxes regularly? Bernard Grech and spouse on the campaign trail
Pay your taxes regularly? Bernard Grech and spouse on the campaign trail

A very wise old adage says that one can turn an egg into an omelette but the process cannot be reversed.

I think this is applicable for the situation in which the likes of Therese Comodini Cachia and Roberta Metsola find themselves in after having decided not to contest the PN leadership contest and so make a clear way for Bernard Grech’s candidature.

I cannot understand why they took that decision. I fully agree with Manuel Delia who wrote: “I am still nervous about Bernard Grech being an unknown quantity. I don’t know if he’d be capable to take the decisions that are needed to inspire confidence in the country that he’d be capable of running it. I suppose it remains to be seen if he has what it takes.”

Grech is a modest family lawyer who was also the legal advisor of the Cana Movement. He had campaigned against the introduction of divorce in Malta, presumably in the interest of his practice – not as a matter of principle, because once divorce was introduced in Malta he did not shirk away from being a lawyer for parties in divorce cases.

I personally think that Grech has been overrated by many, more so as the polls indicate that he has a tangible lead over Adrian Delia and many think that he will eventually become PN leader, at least for the short period up to the next election. Polls indicate that Robert Abela will win the next election even if Bernard Grech was leading the PN.

The unnecessarily long period for the PN election between the decision to hold a PN leadership race, and the still unknown date when it will be held, has led to the revelations of some aspects about Bernard Grech that he would probably have preferred to leave hidden from the public eye.

His ambiguous comments about abortion did not help him. He declared himself against abortion but he allowed that a discussion on the issue is something positive. Then he retracted from this position; and went on to vacillate on the issue of whether he would resign – or not – from Prime Minister in the case of abortion being approved in a referendum.

The issue of his debts with the Inland Revenue about unpaid taxes and unpaid VAT that he should have collected from his clients, also lowered his standing in the high moral ground. Someone said that this was more a case of carelessness than a case of criminality. This could well be true – but politicians are never assessed in this way. Carelessness is a big ‘no no’ where politicians are concerned.

His concession that he could have done things better did not help either. It continued to reinforce the notion that he is so superficial, that he gives importance more at the superficiality of issues than at their real import.

Then there is the question on how he found the money to settle his long-standing dues to the taxman. No acceptable answer has been given by him or his supporters.

At the same time an exercise of crowdfunding for his campaign was launched. This is the first time in Malta that a candidate for a party leadership contest raised funds for his campaign and, frankly, it sounds strange. Is all the money being spent on adverts on Facebook?

Those who undertook this crowdfunding now have the obligation to publish their accounts – how much money was raised and how it was spent. This is a necessary obligation in the interest of the integrity and transparency of his campaign and in the interest of Bernard Grech’s image.

Yet, neither Grech nor anyone from his campaign team has publicly reassured the public that the publication of these accounts will eventually be made. A public statement of such an intention should be made immediately.

If it doesn’t happen, nothing can be done about it. The PN would have been lumped with Bernard Grech willy-nilly. Those who broke the egg and produced this omelette will never be able to get their egg back.

A dizzy conundrum

Some five weeks ago, MaltaToday reported that the DIZZ franchise powerhouse led by fashion entrepreneur Diane Izzo, is issuing a €10 million convertible notes programme to acquire shares in the group’s food subsidiaries.

The D Foods Finance special purchase vehicle issued a programme of €10 million in convertible notes in stepped phases, to professional investors, in the form of €100,000 notes. This money enables D Foods Finance to acquire stakes in DIZZ subsidiaries that are operating food franchises, and which are also run by Izzo’s husband Karl, currently Malta’s ambassador to Montenegro.

The first part of the proceeds will be used to acquire €6.2 million in the companies’ shares, namely 49% of the DK Pascucci coffee house franchise, 53% of Xilema Limited, which holds the Yogorino franchise, 53.5% in DCAFFE Holding, holders of the Pastrocchio, Salad Box and Nespresso franchises, and 53.5% of D Kitchen Lab, a company distributing food products to the subsidiaries’ food franchises.

By fully acquiring the subsidiaries, D Foods Finance plc will fully own the companies that collectively operate the Pascucci, Pastrocchio, Yogorino, Salad Box and Nespresso brands in twelve establishments around Malta.

It turns out that these notes (or a tranche of these notes) were bought on behalf of its clients by GlobalCapital, which was the agent for these notes. Joseph Schembri, who is a senior director of GlobalCapital, is also a director of Dizz Finance plc.

GlobalCapital, or one of its subsidiaries, owns Il Castello Collalto Sabino, a 12th century castle close to Rome and a former Barberini Papal Castle. It is understood that the Izzo couple and their friends recently spent a short holiday in this castle.

This situation poses an interesting question. Who are the clients for whom GlobalCapital bought these notes? Surely the name of the beneficial owners of these notes should be in the public domain given that they are purchasing notes that could be convertible into actual company ownership shares. The FIAU must be keeping tabs on all avenues in which large quantities of money are paid through financial institutions for the acquisition of these instruments under current money laundering rules.