Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander

We need to get serious. If Muscat has made such an allegation, it is something that must be taken seriously by police. But should an MP be weaponsing an unproven allegation to catalyse a storm of chaos?

In 2014, Angelo Gafà – then an inspector now a Police commissioner – started criminal proceedings against the Farrugia brothers, the principals of the Johns Group (John’s Garage), a family known for their diehard political leanings in the eighties and nineties.

Sometime in 2010, the brothers hauled their brother George Farrugia into court, in a civil case that dealt with fraud allegations. In court evidence they presented there and then, the brothers showed invoices for the procurement of fuel to Enemalta, which monies were being redirected to George Farrugia’s secret Swiss bank account; but also proving a series of kickbacks and financial set-ups linked to the purchase of oil in Malta. It was the background to the Enemalta oil scandal that finally unravelled in January 2013 when we published that story.

The tidal wave of abuse that followed then was relentless. Austin Gatt, the minister who had presided over Enemalta, Lou Bondì and Daphne Caruana Galizia... the usual suspects intent on playing down the scandal and accusing MaltaToday of trying to scuttle the PN’s electoral chances.

Needless to say, in 2015 a parliamentary committee reviewed the National Audit Office’s report on fuel procurement at Enemalta, and that PAC was chaired then by Jason Azzopardi, a former parliamentary secretary for lands. He was then someone of serious demeanour who had the ability to network with journalists.

I was asked a plethora of questions about the Farrugia brothers, namely by Beppe Fenech Adami, who like his erstwhile mentor Austin Gatt had suddenly forgotten about how deep-blue (in the political sense) the brothers at John’s Garage had been... how useful they had been to a number of heavyweights like Guido De Marco and Gatt himself.

In that particular sitting I had faced Jason Azzopardi and purposely grabbed his Volkswagen car keys that lay on the table, reminding him how he had used the services of John’s Garage for years without paying a penny – namely garaging his dark blue VW and using their Valentine’s Hall for his political functions, and their cabs for ferrying supporters around.

I also reminded Fenech Adami that the Farrugia brothers, whose sibling George ran their subsidiary Powerplan, had filed their court case in 2010 when they found him running a secret company, Aikon, behind their backs. George Farrugia’s wife Cathy only happened to have once been a secretary to then prime minister Lawrence Gonzi, during his years in private enterprise. I had said then that Cathy Farrugia had “fortunately mislaid” a letter that had been found out by the other brothers, as well as in other emails, of oil profits siphoned off to Aikon.

The brothers took George Farrugia to court, accusing him of using a fiduciary to divert profits from Powerplan into a Swiss bank. A week after court action was filed, Farrugia met his brothers and warned them: “if the letter is publicised, the government will fall”.

I had made it very clear to the House committee, that George Farrugia – who was given a presidential pardon by the Gonzi administration – should be tried in court, not his brothers.

Well... what is right and what is wrong is quite irrelevant now.

The truth is that today, seven years after the oil scandal and ten years after the Farrugia brothers decided to take their brother to court, we are no closer to the truth than a decade ago.

George Farrugia and all the culprits continue to trade and make big bucks and the Farrugia brothers look back and ask themselves why they are being tried in court, just because George Farrugia claims they were aware of his slush fund for government officials. Go figure.

None of the prima donnas, either on the Labour or Nationalist side, ever spoke up to talk of the truth or defend the Farrugia brothers. Labour of course forgot about the oil scandal, preoccupied as it was to fend off far bigger scandals... the PN naturally is unwilling to dig up history.

And yet, what irks me is the barefacedness of some of the protagonists. And riding high in the ranks for deception, is Jason Azzopardi.

For those in big business will tell you about the numerous occasions Jason Azzopardi used their services… for free. Yet he assumes to have the gall to pontificate what others do or did. Clearly, Azzopardi thinks he has a different yardstick for himself.

In 2013, a magisterial inquiry was initiated on the transfer of government land by the Lands Department. The case was opened on 8, May 2013 by Inspector Jonathan Ferris – the same, now former police inspector, who has to face perjury charges in relation to claims he made to the Egrant inquiry magistrate.

The 2013 case he filed was a criminal investigation that was titled “an inquiry into fraud, trading in influence and corruption”. The case does not point a finger directly at Jason Azzopardi, who was up until March 2013 the parliamentary secretary responsible for lands; but it refers to government land that was offered (at a price of course) to residents of Cospicua Road at Għajn Dwieli, because it touched on their properties. As it happens, that road falls in the heart of Azzopardi’s constituency.

Now Azzopardi is not guilty of anything here. Until now. But I did ask him whether he could be held politically responsible for the investigation taking place here. His answer on Xtra was evasive. “No,” he said, because this was not an inquiry about him, personally.

I begged to differ: the inquiry, ongoing and in the hands of Magistrate Monica Vella, is a about a decision by the Lands Department that was under the direct responsibility of Jason Azzopardi. Yet he sees not the implications of political responsibility. Well, I’m sorry that Azzopardi is not what we all think he is.

Or maybe he is just what I think he is: a hypocrite. For when such an investigation as this exists, and is ongoing, a politician who aspires to government office, must be able to declare at which stage he is ready to assume political responsibility for what happened on his watch, and is now the subject of a magisterial inquiry.

Not only: Azzopardi made headlines last week when he obtained information that Vincent Muscat il-Koħħu had told police that a Labour politician is involved in a major crime. Azzopardi was adamant that the sitting minister is “not a lawyer” and that Robert Abela knows about it. The crime is believed to be none other than the 2010 HSBC heist. Now the insinuation is clear – Carmelo Abela was a former HSBC manager before 2013, and Net News made sure to get his views on the matter by asking him to “condemn any minister who might be implicated by Koħħu”. Azzopardi has denied having referred to Abela, on Xtra; he meekly suggested that he is only repeating what Muscat told police.

We need to get serious. If Muscat has made such an allegation, it is something that must be taken seriously by police. But should an MP be weaponsing an unproven allegation to catalyse a storm of chaos? Ah well, what’s good for the goose then is good for the gander: let them who do not face a magisterial inquiry on alleged wrongdoing, cast the first stone.