In God we trust

Mizzi may be the Prime Minister’s rising star, but as a counter to his energy he surely has a superabundance of political naivety

Shooting oneself in the foot is fast becoming a national Maltese endemic trait. When you think or make yourself believe that nothing can go wrong the unexpected happens and the proverbial shit hits the fan.

Energy and Health minister Konrad Mizzi must have known that his declaration of a trust in New Zealand and a shell company in Panama would enrage the opposition and raise more questions than answers with the media. In disclosing the existence of the trust and a shell company Konrad Mizzi avoided the worst, that of being pilloried. Just.

It would have been a pity for Labour’s fresh face and go getter minister.

Of course, being a State minister and a deputy leader of a party in government places Mizzi in a very awkward and sensitive position.

Questions arise why does he want to have a trust in New Zealand and a shell company in Panama. Why not in Malta? (See some of the answers to these questions in today’s MaltaToday.)

The shell company, whether we like it or not, is hosted by a country which has a reputation for money laundering.

Mizzi wants to come clean and bare all. But is he in time to convince the public that he was not up to something shady or illicit?

Perhaps his attempt to convince the media and the discerning public that everything is above board is best described as mission impossible. But it could be that his stamina and charm may stem the haemorrhage.

I am not quite sure that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wanted to be in this politically torrid situation. I cannot believe that he is so politically short sighted as not to have realised that the existence of a minister with a trust – and a trust that is registered abroad – would open him up for more trenchant criticism.

Mizzi, on the other hand, may be the Prime Minister’s rising star, but as a counter to his energy and decisiveness he surely has a superabundance of political naivety.  As was shown when he was bludgeoned for his wife’s contract – a contract which should have never gone through in the first place.

There is no doubt that those who would like to see him brought down to his knees are justified in asking whether these financial models he has seen fit to resort to, will be used to siphon funds originating from potential kick backs.  These are allegations which his opponents like to make all over the social media without any proof.  But in politics proof is not an antecedent of perception. There is no proof that kickbacks are in fact taking place. But that is not the point.

Others who are more interested in the bigger picture would ask whether a State Minister from a social democratic party can hand on heart hold a trust or a shell company in a tax regime which is attractive because of its tax avoidance status.  And please note tax avoidance versus tax evasion.

How can a minister such as Konrad Mizzi turn to Joe Public and ask him to pay his taxes, but pay a reduced tax himself, as indeed he intends doing by resorting to such legal and legitimate tactics to diminish the impact of taxation.

Mizzi will argue that this is not true and that he pays tax.

He has opted to bare all and show all his documents, as MaltaToday shows today, and he is determined not to resign, because he believes he did the right thing and declared his intentions beforehand.

That could be his saving grace, that is the fact that he declared everything.

His other saving grace is that the opposition is an unlikely and unworthy opponent when it comes to dictating over serious conflicts of interest and the existence of trusts.

As our sister newspaper Illum reports today, a sizeable segment of the PN parliamentary group were against a frontal attack on Konrad Mizzi – and there is reason for this. It is that trusts are not entirely unknown to many senior PN figures, in their capacity as consultants, curators and users of trusts.

But two wrongs do not make a right, we are constantly reminded.

And this issue of conflict of interest, which I fully agree should be thrashed out once and for all, brings up the reality that few if any of our parliamentarians can claim to be virginal.

There is a chaotic understanding of what is possible and not possible for an MP, let alone a minister.

When PN leader Simon Busuttil, as a European parliamentarian, received a handsome wage from Brussels, he continued to work as an advocate with Ganado & Sammut, a company well known for setting up trusts, giving advice and also getting handsomely remunerated. I believe the date until when Simon Busuttil continued to function as a private advocate was until 2010 and some of his clients included the Maltese representatives for Shell, who were generously awarded a €5 million compensation on 15 January, 2013 for having been discriminated against other oil giants such as Trafigura and Totsa.  You see, everything was working perfectly fine at EneMalta.

How a serving MEP can continue doing work as a consultant, including the setting up of trusts, beats me, but then we should not be too surprised if this happened in the European Union and European parliament. The EU and its parliament have long ceased to impress me as a bastion of standards and ethics.

Which brings me to the next scenario.

First of all there is a problem with setting up trusts, nominee companies etc when it comes to parliamentarians, let alone State ministers. 

A code of ethics should also determine that parliamentarians should declare everything, including the income of their spouses or partners.

That is how it works in other European democracies.

But the other very important argument that needs to be addressed is that ministers need to be remunerated adequately. Muscat needs to realise this, ministers cannot be paid peanuts, no one in their right mind today can go into politics for the wages offered.

It is high time that Muscat gets it into his head that he will only get good people if they are well paid and have a good financial base. Otherwise he will only get monkeys.

The Konrad Mizzi situation should serve to trigger a set of changes. Muscat should strive to make them happen.


I am not one to jump up and stand for The Times, but the parliamentary tirade by Joe Sammut asking the newspaper to be investigated by his gracious Speaker for their comments on him and Gaffarena were injudicious and banal.

Sammut has also sued this newspaper for referring to him as a former business associate of the Gaffarenas. He took umbrage that The Times referred to him as a Labour MP.

Well, Sammut is a lawyer, a hunter, a Labour MP and PL rep on MEPA and so forth, and if he believes that these titles are erroneous he should really start revisiting all these posts.

Sammut said in parliament that there was no respect and distinction in the media between the private life and parliamentary life.

I really think that Sammut hit the nail on its head. 

I have finally understood the problem. We as lesser mortals are supposed to judge people according to their location, the time of day and the nature of their actions at the time of writing.

He said that if this were the case, then all parliamentarians should pack up and leave.

May I suggest that he does just that: pack up and leave.  Joe Sammut would be better suited as a lawyer, a hunter and a cuddly acquaintance of the one and only Marco Gaffarena! 

Now can the gracious speaker give a ruling on this?