Good for the goose, good for the gander

Journalists might not be the ones to change the world, but our job is to publish the truth

The tradition is for the journalist to be accused of being blinkered or one sided
The tradition is for the journalist to be accused of being blinkered or one sided

I have asked myself on several occasions why a story needs to be scripted and published in the first place. It is a question often put by those who are questioned by journalists.  

If there is a story about someone or about an event, the interviewee will always argue that he cannot see where the story is.

The tradition is for the journalist to be accused of being blinkered or one sided.

In spite of all the flak we receive and have received, we have covered all stories. And really I should ask anyone who accuses us of being one sided to list the stories which we have neglected or ignored. 

We have tried hard to follow the big stories irrespective of whether a story will have political fall-out on any of the political parties. And rest assured all political parties are unhappy that we do not follow their chorus.

Some four weeks ago, we carried a front-page story illustrating the institutionalised tax avoidance structure in Malta and the global figure of tax that is saved by countless foreign companies.

That story, backed by facts and figures, led to a concerted reaction by professionals of all hues and creeds.  Labourites, Nationalists, lawyers, accountants, auditors, professionals, union leaders, practically everyone, send a loud and clear message.

This would hurt Malta. Someone said on Facebook the editor of this newspaper should be shot. We were called all sorts of names. The one that got me going was ‘you are no different from the bile queen.’

My answer to this was a typical ‘mind your own business’ (the vulgar version).

I recall one occasion some years ago, when a Maltese government delegation was invited by the Gaddafi government, or better by Gaddafi himself. Then it was called ‘the Libyan government’, now we call it a regime, a dictatorship, etc. Blair, Berlusconi and Gonzi called it a government.

It was sometime in 2008 that Karl Schembri, then a journalist with MaltaToday was invited to attend a visit in Tripoli. The meeting was held in a tent with bulky air conditioners pumping cold air into the torrid heat in the largesse of an open tent. 

The Maltese delegation were in attendance in one of those surreal and quixotic moments in Libya. Gaddafi, dressed like a buffoon with sunglasses, was surrounded by a posse of sycophants with pistols.

Schembri did what every good journalist is expected of him. He described the chaotic Libyan organisation and the comical setting in the dictator’s tent.

That report did not go down very well with the Libyan authorities and of course they communicated their concern to the Maltese authorities who were officially asked to deal with us.

The ‘scolding’ came through. “Do you know how much harm your article has caused?”

To which we replied that they should explain that this is a democracy and the media is free.  

Today’s front-page story penned together with a London based freelance journalist, Mark Hollingsworth, a veteran in his field, focuses on an investigation that seemingly took place but never got anywhere. The big question is: why is this story being written?

It has all the ingredients of a cover-up. But I guess we are not allowed to say this.  Because that is how things work out here.

In another world it would have hit the headlines. It should hit the headlines, because based on the undisputed facts it is clear that the presence of a Politically Exposed Person (PEP) on a company managing the affairs of a company that was suspected of having been recipients of monies originating from dubious sources, should have catalysed more of a thorough investigation. 

Instead the case was not pursued and in January 2013 was shelved temporarily with specific orders to be brought up in three months’ time. Let us remember that ‘the bring up (BU)’ indicated by Michael Cassar, then Assistant Police Commissioner, coincided with a specific time after the 2013 election.

That the PEP was Beppe Fenech Adami and the parliamentary assistant responsible for the police at the time did not seem to concern anyone. It should have, and in the atmosphere before the 2013 election it would have created shockwaves. Electoral shockwaves that is!

Surely the case was sensitive. There is little doubt that it was not.

All this does not mean that Fenech Adami was guilty of any crime, or responsible for any misdemeanours, but the very fact that the Dutch police had made a drug connection to two individuals with connection to companies managed by a fiduciary where Fenech Adami was a director, did not imply the police (Maltese) should stop in their tracks. More so, when we know that transactions amounting to hundreds of thousands were recorded in the bank statements of these companies.

All this did not happen.

Fenech Adami confirms that he was NOT interrogated by the police and he did NOT even know that there was an investigation into these companies. He was parliamentary assistant responsible for the police too. It is strange that not only was he not questioned by the police, but that the police did not even inform him of what was going on.

I guess one should give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he did not know anything.

But it is not easy to give the same benefit of the doubt to the police.

On January 30, after being faced with a very unambiguous police report from the investigating police officer, Michael Cassar, then assistant commissioner, decided that the file should be brought up in three months’ time.

Logic fails me.

Cassar was a very busy man and surely concerned about the oil scandal that MaltaToday had just uncovered. But the police report was finalised and presented to Cassar on 13 January. The oil scandal was made public on 18 January. 

I still cannot quite understand what led Cassar to decide to bring up the file three months later. And worse still, why the Dutch authorities did not receive the documents which would have led them to raise their antennae even higher.

What I do know is that Cassar left no stone unturned in the John Dalli case. Some nasty characters will say; “Well this is perfectly understandable considering that Dalli was the Nationalists’ bête noir for the Gonzi administration.”

I happen to be one of those ‘nasty’ individuals who strongly believe that over the ages the Maltese police have never quite understood what executive powers mean. And by that I mean their failure to respect the fact that there should be strict observance in the belief that everyone gets treated in a same and equal manner irrespective of their political inclinations.

This front-page story is just the case.

We might not be the ones to change the world, but our job is to publish the truth.