Is it a case of organised crime?

This also implies a structured organisation, nay a conspiracy, made of people familiar with a particular area in the south of Malta, including the electoral district that elected former Labour MP Silvio Grixti

Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti
Former Labour MP Silvio Grixti

A few days ago, in an interview on Net TV, Paul Bonello, a financial services practitioner, raised the possibility that the benefits fraud scandal is a case of organised crime.

This, in my opinion, is a different aspect of the scandal.

The fraudulent scheme involved falsification of documents, theft of public moneys; corrupt practices when it was used for vote catching; bribes or protection money and depended on a number of persons in order to succeed.

This does indeed raise the possibility that the fraudulent scheme is a case of organised crime.

According to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, an organised criminal group is a structured group of three or more persons existing for a period of time and acting co-operatively with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences.

The EU, however, has another definition: ‘planned and co-ordinated criminal behaviour and conduct by people working together for a common illicit profit that are often in great public demand, including the exercise of illegal governance’.

It almost seems that this wording was written with the benefit fraud scandal in mind!

Moreover, according to Article 83A (1) of Malta’s Criminal Code (ironically enacted recently by the Labour administration):

(a)    Any person who - promotes, constitutes, organises or finances an organization with a view to commit criminal offences liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years or more;

(b)    knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect the aim or general activity of the organization set up for the purpose mentioned in paragraph (a), actively takes part in the organisation’s criminal activities, including but not limited to the provision of information or material means or the recruitment of new members, shall be guilty of an offence and shall liable, on conviction, to the punishment of imprisonment for a term from four to nine years

It goes on to say:

(2) Any person who belongs to an organisation referred to in sub-article (1) shall for that mere fact be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term from two to seven years.

(3) Where the number of persons in the organisation is ten or more the punishment in the preceding sub-articles shall be increased from one to two degrees.

From the above quote from the Criminal Code and considering the way the fraudulent benefits were obtained, it is clear that the possibility of the case being one of organised crime cannot be discounted.

The Minister for the Family, Children's Rights and Social Solidarity, my namesake, was reported in it-Torċa last Sunday to have declared in an interview on RTK radio that the fraudulent scheme was not an exercise in vote buying. I do not know how he is so sure, although when one considers the electoral districts where the beneficiaries of this fraudulent scheme live, there is no doubt that the fraud was done behind this minister’s back - it certainly did not to give him any electoral advantage.

This was because the beneficiaries are concentrated in the south of Malta and there is practically no one from the electoral districts that Michael Falzon contests.

This also implies a structured organisation, nay a conspiracy, made of people familiar with a particular area in the south of Malta, including the electoral district that elected former Labour MP Silvio Grixti.


I have already written on the fact that the COLA increase of around €13 weekly will continue to fuel inflation, and this inflation is home-made and not the result of increases in prices of imported goods.

This is a well-known fact.

So, I cannot understand how the editorial of last Sunday’s it-Torċa was an attack against local businessmen for increases in prices. The editorial followed a three page story starting from the front that reported how 85% of consumers blamed retailers for the recent increases in prices. This figure was the result of a survey carried out by well-known pollster, Vincent Marmara.

I am not saying that Marmara, who is a professional, was incorrect. But Marmara reported the prejudice of those polled and not the actual reasons for price increases.

Blaming retailers for price increases rather than what is happening in the rest of the world is an old leftist ploy that confuses the impression of many traditional Labour Party supporters who do not even reckon that goods are imported at fluctuating rates before they are sold in our shops.

To them it is the retailers that ask more for their imported products and therefore the retailers are at fault.

I am not saying that there are no rogues among retailers, but it is obvious that the recent spate of price increases in consumer goods is the result of increases in cost of imported goods. These cost increases are the result of several factors beyond the local market and do not therefore result from capricious local retailers.

Playing on the ignorance of some to depict all retailers as thieves is an old left-wing trick and is certainly unfair. The editorial in it-Torċa even said this situation must be addressed. How? Inflation is not controlled by persecuting retailers!

I would have thought that experience has shown this is not on. But old habits die hard.

Meanwhile, speaking at a pre-budget consultation meeting with the social partners, Finance minister Clyde Caruana on Wednesday warned that while subsidies on energy, fuel and grains are set to continue into next year, the mentality that the government can continue to spend indefinitely needs to change.

Caruana admitted that inflation has led some to increase prices with little justification: ‘The element of profiteering exists in Malta too, where people increase prices with the excuse of inflation. This exists all over Europe and Malta is no exception.’

Caruana said the country needs to be weaned off the psychological effect brought about through the financial aid provided by government, first during the pandemic and later to ease inflation.

In total, Caruana said, the government will be spending €350m in subsidies next year, some 1.7% of Malta’s total GDP. This cannot go on indefinitely.

‘Now we are back to reality, where we can spend what we earn. You can spend a little more than you earn for a little while, but you cannot do that forever,’ he said.

Minister Clyde Caruana is down to earth while it-Torċa promises pie in the sky!