The messenger with forged documents resigns

What is sure is that Portelli worked endlessly with the PN before 2017 to make the Egrant lie a workable story that could 'depose' Muscat

Pierre Portelli at the law courts: the Egrant inquiry concluded that the documents he had presented turned out to be false, with forged signatures
Pierre Portelli at the law courts: the Egrant inquiry concluded that the documents he had presented turned out to be false, with forged signatures

I remember meeting him some time after the 2017 election on the corner of the Wembley Store on Republic Street. We do not see eye to eye, we sort of hate each other’s guts, but yet can somehow talk to each other.

He was carrying a bag on his shoulders, wearing a grey suit. Pierre Portelli has been someone I have learnt to mistrust and dislike, but you have to appreciate his candid approach to politics. I guess the older I get, the less important all the grudges a career in journalism tends to pile into our imaginary suitcases.

He was then on his way to meet Adrian Delia at the offices he shared with that illustrious of lawyers, Georg Sapiano.

Rumours were flying about the new candidate for the PN. And Portelli was the first person to egg Delia on, to support him and to argue for a fresh face for the PN.

When he finally left Standard Publications where he had admittedly changed that newspaper to a pro-Nationalist title, yet a more gripping read albeit replete with some inaccurate stories that were retracted with front-page apologies, he could not have imagined that its star columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, would be instrumental in hurting Adrian Delia and hamstringing his political career.

Portelli had worked closely with Caruana Galizia to make the Egrant story – a fake story – a reality.  He was aware of the facts as the saga evolved, which led to political bickering, social media strife and an ugly election campaign. And yet at no point before the election date did Portelli show any indication that the whole story was clearly fabricated, or that the clear doubts on the veracity of Maria Efimova’s allegations and the way they had been given life by Daphne Caruana Galizia, were not backed by any concrete evidence. Indeed, he fanned the flames of the story, together with PN leader Simon Busuttil.

And I say this with certainty. Both he and Daphne knew they were working on a concocted lie with a devious source. Up to which point they were all involved in the fabrication of this story is unclear, or whether they knowingly allowed themselves to be led down this garden path, perhaps hoping for the best.

What is sure is that Portelli worked endlessly with the PN before 2017 to make this lie a workable story that could ‘depose’ Muscat.

What is also clear is that when Pierre Portelli made himself Adrian Delia’s own eminence grise, he was also part of the thinking process that led to Delia to call for Simon Busuttil to resign after the Aaron Bugeja findings on Egrant; and from then on, he became a target for the dissident groups in the PN led by Beppe Fenech Adami and Jason Azzopardi.   

In his findings Aaron Bugeja had scathing conclusions on both Caruana Galizia and Pierre Portelli. Of note was his observation on Portelli, which was analysed in MaltaToday after the Bugeja findings. “He had reached an agreement with Efimova to give him a copy of the declarations of trust after she would have accessed her iCloud account using a VPN (software that masks the user’s identity and location when accessing the internet). Efimova never gave him the documents. He said that Caruana Galizia and Efimova both told him that they had passed on these documents to the inquiring magistrate. Portelli does not say from where he got the declarations of trust that he passed on to the magistrate.”

More importantly, Efimova’s testimony that the documents she saw at the bank did not have a letterhead, contradicted the transcripts Caruana Galizia produced on her blog and the documents Portelli eventually handed the magistrate.

The Bugeja findings conclude that the documents turned out to be false, with forged signatures – a fact that seemingly still cannot be believed by all those who embraced the type of ‘journalism’ that prevailed back then.

According to many legal experts, presentation of false documents should lead to prosecution. I hope this does not materialise for Portelli, who is now seeking new pastures. What I do know, is that in his tenure at the heart of the inner circle, Pierre Portelli became one of Caruana Galizia’s sternest critics. This sudden change of heart weakened his position in the party, uncovering his age-old habit of changing colour when it suited him best.

He has now exited and resigned, telling everyone that he will always remain a Maltese Nazzjonalist, whatever that may or may not mean.

If I were him, I would think of running away from politics altogether. It was a sordid affair, full of intrigue, lies and fake news. Most of all for him.

Adieu Pierre, for now, and good luck!

It’s not only the economy, stupid

We have reached a point of vomiting every time we hear the stomach-churning chorus that as long as the economy grows, then everything else is fine.

We do not need to go very far to understand why. We should really take a look at ourselves and ask if more money and loads of it has made us happier.  It surely makes us want much more.

There is a national malaise which is incredibly contagious that the more you have, the more you want.

The very fact that the middle class has swollen and with it the fancy homes, gaudy cars, second homes, showy boats and multiple holidays, gives the impression that there is no underclass and deprived individuals. There are hundreds of desperate people, Maltese and foreigners, who cannot make ends meet.

Undeniably the middle class has grown, increasing its spending power and investment return. It is called ‘gebla’, literally stone. As in the later 1960s and 1970s, and the 1990s, now the malign spread of concrete has continued churning new apartments and bungalows and villas and complexes, schools, hotels, factories, lidos and whatever one can build.

It is a stifling environment we are living in, one where the concept of space and open areas remains anathema to the planners and policy-makers. Where the notion of open spaces is a skate-boarding ring at Msida circus or a playground next to a by-pass. Or a garden fenced in and closed at night with security cameras stationed in the four corners of that limited claustrophobic space.

If the inadequate footprint of our land was not enough of a problem we now have the problem of our seas and shoreline taken up by private lidos and countless boats.

I am not sure we had a soul, but if we did we have lost it.

We continue to blame the politicians of the past for having made havoc of our planning laws, Lorry Sant and George Pullicino; but the future of our policies is in the hand of today’s politicians. No one is saying that we should put a lid on development but we must surely think of drawing boundary lines.

This is not about the economy anymore, or about me and you. It is about leaving something of this country to our children.

People, today, who have their own pools and boats and the money to go away whenever they want are the privileged class. No matter what anyone might say.

The vast majority do not have these benefits; they live in apartments with ghastly views, raise children in communities dominated by cement with little or no green.

The onus of responsibility lies with Joseph Muscat, who like all prime ministers, decides and catalyses change.

But he needs to be convinced and when he is, he traditionally takes note and implements change.

Beyond local and Brussels politics, Muscat needs to comprehend the importance of preserving our natural heritage for the benefit of future generations.