Let the real truth come out

A new development in Egrant-gate seems to indicate we are seeing an end in sight to this inquiry which continues to haunt the Muscat administration almost a year after the revelations were first publicized

Joseph Muscat and wife Michelle, were alleged to have held a secret Panama offshore company
Joseph Muscat and wife Michelle, were alleged to have held a secret Panama offshore company

It was reported Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is investigating the allegations that Michelle Muscat was the owner of the offshore company Egrant, has travelled to Ireland so that IT forensic experts can “help examine a number of computer servers – including those elevated from the offices of Pilatus Bank and Nexia BT”.

This new development seems to indicate that hopefully we are seeing an end in sight to this inquiry which continues to haunt the Muscat administration almost a year after the revelations were first publicized.

Stories of documents being leaked to the press to damage politicians are tales as old as time, and sometimes, as in Malta’s case, they can have a strong impact on the course of political events in a country. Everything always hinges, of course, on whether the authenticity of the documents or evidence can be proved.

The notorious Watergate tapes ended up bringing down Nixon, for example, but the long investigation by the House Judiciary Committee always made it clear that mere transcripts of conversations which incriminated Nixon would not be enough and “we will accept nothing less than the tapes” (as reported by The Washington Post in 1974). However, in what was described as a “dramatic” nationally televised speech, Nixon finally agreed to hand over 1,200 pages of transcripts, which would include all the conversations he held with his aides at the White House about the break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building, although national security information would be edited out. He also told members of the committee that they could “come to the White House and listen to all the tapes to verify the completeness and authenticity of the transcripts.”

The Judiciary Committee did not accept these terms and the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to hand over the subpoenaed tapes. The rest is history. Including the fact that ever since then we have tagged the word ‘gate’ on to every political scandal.

In the run-up to the US Presidential elections of 2004, a damning report on the investigative news programme 60 minutes televised on CBS, claimed that incumbent Republican President George W. Bush had received preferential treatment while serving in the military because of his father’s powerful connections, and had failed to fulfill the requirements of his military service contract. The story based its allegations on memos which were supposedly written by Bush’s commander, the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian. The significance of this attack on Bush’s military record was because the rival Democratic party would also be using this as part of their campaign.

As it turned out, the whole story fell apart precisely because the memos were eventually proved to have been forged by the source who handed them over to the producer of the segment, Mary Mapes, who was eventually fired from her job. Her bosses claimed that her liberal political agenda had skewed her judgment and that she had not bothered to verify the authenticity of the memos, but had taken them at face value because of her eagerness to discredit Bush.

Renowned broadcast journalist Dan Rather, who presented the segment, was also forced to resign. (Incidentally, it was a right-wing blog called Power Line which, with the help of its readers with a military background, dissected the memos and proved they were false because, among other things the fonts used showed they were typed on Microsoft Word rather than on an old typewriter). CBS also brought in experts to examine the documents, and also concluded that they were fake.

As with these two examples, the Egrant allegations (and the ensuing implications) are also based on the authenticity or not, of certain documents. The real truth has to come out, either way, so that the name Egrant can be slotted into its appropriate place in history as either the last straw which finally demolishes Muscat’s career once and for all, or else, as he has often described it, as “the biggest lie in Malta’s political history.”

The problem with the mysterious Egrant documents is that, unlike the above-mentioned fake documents which supposedly incriminated Bush, or the authentic Nixon tapes, we have never seen it or even seen a copy of it.

The Bush documents were actually published which is why it was eventually announced with absolute certainty that they were fakes, ruining the reputation of one of America’s most reputable journalists, who relied on the judgement of his producer who foolishly relied too blindingly on her source. So far all I have read is about people claiming to have seen the Egrant evidence of a declaration of trust in Michelle Muscat’s name, or that they saw a copy on an iPad, or that it’s stored in the ‘cloud’, but that’s about it. A copy of the document, however, was handed over to Magistrate Bugeja.

I have always thought that the easiest, most obvious, most devastatingly damaging way to really torpedo Muscat’s election changes in 2017 was to have published, at the every least, a true copy of the original document. I’m pretty sure the country was holding its breath, expecting it to be produced at the very last minute, with dramatic flair, by Simon Busuttil during his last debate against Joseph Muscat, which is usually the domain where the most crippling shots are fired against political opponents prior to an election.

As that never happened, we simply have to keep waiting for Magistrate Bugeja’s conclusive findings to resolve our own Egrant-gate.

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