It’s Konrad Mizzi in the dock, not Malta

The fact that Konrad Mizzi was the only sitting EU Minister exposed in the leaks already puts Malta in an uncomfortable position

Mizzi cannot hide in the dark corners of Castille forever. Sooner or later he will be held to account - Roberta Metsola
Mizzi cannot hide in the dark corners of Castille forever. Sooner or later he will be held to account - Roberta Metsola

The European Parliament this week voted to set up a full-blown Committee of Inquiry into the revelations of the Panama Papers scandal that exposed the money-channelling operations of people like Malta’s Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.

Transparency, accountability, the rule of law, the fight against tax evasion and good governance are all pillars of the European Union. It is the obligation of the EU and of the Member States to ensure that all these are respected. After the public outcry, it was inevitable that the European Parliament would launch an investigation.

The fact that our Konrad Mizzi was the only sitting EU Minister exposed in the leaks already puts Malta in an uncomfortable position. The Prime Minister’s inability, or unwillingness, to take a concrete decision over Konrad Mizzi’s behaviour means that the scandal will drag on and on and on, leaving no one in any doubt that it will cast a long, dark shadow over Malta’s EU Presidency starting in January. 

The European Parliament’s investigation will mean that Malta will be forced to go through the excruciating process of having Konrad Mizzi hauled before MEPs who will question the various mercurial excuses he put forward to try to explain away the setting up of his secret financial operations while he was the Minister in charge of the largest projects on the island. They will look at all his public statements and I am sure many will be scratching their heads at his often colourful and contradictory blustering to justify his actions.

No one will be taking any pleasure in this. It puts the entire country under a bad light. Anyone else, with a fragment of decency and dignity, would have resigned months ago, and tried to salvage what little is left of their reputation as a private citizen. Few would have wanted the country to go through this period of uncertainty. The allegations did not have to stretch on for so long, damaging our nation with every day that passes. Konrad Mizzi however, refused to take the decent way out and is willing to let Malta keep taking hit after hit, as long as he can cling on to his seat of power.

It is the exact opposite of what anyone who truly has the common good at heart would have done.

The facts are irrevocable. Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri tried to hide their operations and the Prime Minister and the Labour Parliamentary Group defended them to the hilt. It’s true that there were one or two lone whimpers suggesting that they should have resigned, but when it came down to actions over words, the sources of these half hearted attempts at doing the right thing picked their own myopic interests over the interests of the nation. That is inexcusable and unforgivable. History will not judge kindly those who defended Konrad Mizzi.

The European Parliament’s inquiry will be extensive. It will be bang in the middle of Malta’s Presidency of the EU, marring the golden opportunity our country will have of being in the driving seat of the EU agenda. Konrad Mizzi knows this, but he does not care. He thinks he can get away with it and is unencumbered by what it will do to Malta’s credibility as a financial services hub.

The PN is working to make up for Konrad Mizzi and the damage that this administration is doing to Malta.

Malta’s political history is chequered with people who contributed to the development of our nation from both the government and the opposition benches. But this time, the damage risks becoming irreversible. Everyone in the Brussels corridors (or in Malta for that matter) is incredulous that Joseph Muscat’s government continues to defend these actions. Our duty as Nationalist Party MEPs is to show that not all politicians are of the same ilk as those running things from Castille. That the principles of honest, genuine politics in favour of the common good still apply to Malta.

It is not just a question of a rap on the knuckles for Konrad Mizzi. The implications are worse than simply one questionable politician. Konrad Mizzi has left the door open for larger economies to continue to push for EU-wide taxation harmonisation in the fight against tax evasion – a situation that will have far-reaching implications for Malta’s economy.

Our challenge is to ensure that we come down hard on corruption, tax evasion and aggressive, abusive tax avoidance without using this as a disguise for tax harmonisation. It is clear that our citizens expect more to be done to tackle those who abuse to the detriment of others – and we will deliver without impinging on Malta’s tax sovereignty.

The truth, that is visible to all except to the Prime Minister, is that the longer Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri cling on to their seats at the heart of Malta’s government, this administration will continue to have zero credibility when it comes to taxation matters.

This sorry saga will continue to drag on. Konrad Mizzi cannot hide in the dark corners of Castille forever. Sooner or later he will be held to account, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.

Roberta Metsola is a Nationalist MEP

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