Panamagate minister turns Facebook guns on Marsa migrants in ‘call for respect’

“You fled your countries. We rescued you from death at sea... Now learn how to respect our culture and religion”

Please, don’t stop… Konrad Mizzi warmly welcomed at a Labour rally in Paola
Please, don’t stop… Konrad Mizzi warmly welcomed at a Labour rally in Paola

Konrad Mizzi, the former minister embroiled in the 2016 Panama Papers, has taken to Facebook to pour scorn over migrants housed at the Marsa Open Centre, where a fire broke out in the dormitory.

But in a Facebook status he posted this evening, the former energy and tourism minister, whose Panama company was linked to the Dubai firm 17 Black owned by Yorgen Fenech - the alleged mastermind in the Caruana Galizia assassination - Mizzi ‘demanded’ respect from asylum seekers rescued by Malta.

“You fled your countries. We rescued you from death at sea. We gave you shelter in our home. We fed you. Now learn how to respect us. Us, our country, our culture, our religion and our people,” Mizzi said.

It was a statement far removed from the ministerial playbook he previously read from, before resigning under the weight of the Fenech arrest and his own links to the Electrogas shareholder, one of the owners of the gas plant which Mizzi pushed as energy minister.

As expected, Mizzi’s bait brought out less than warm feelings from his followers: “We must throw them out of the country. No respect. Malta has become a dump”; “They can sleep on the floor now that they burn their mattresses”; “They are simply ungrateful”…

Other comments came from well-wishers who said Mizzi had “much to offer to Malta”.

Quick on the draw was the Nationalist Party candidate Mark Anthony Sammut, who lampooned Mizzi’s message. “You came to our country. We entrusted you to public office. We trusted you to represent us. We entrusted to you public funds. We paid your wife’s keep. You not only stole from us, but destroyed our reputation, and you’re still taking us for a ride. Now go find a place to hide instead of pointing your finger, because the only time we want to see is inside a prison cell. None of these immigrants will cost us €5,000 every day for 18 years like you do,” Sammut said - the last line a reference to an alleged €5,000 which Mizzi and Keith Schembri’s auditors said would be paid into their bank accounts every day from 17 Black.

The fire that broke out in the largest dormitory at the Marsa migrant reception centre at around 1pm left no one injured but nine people were treated for smoke inhalation. 20 migrants were arrested after the incident.

The fire was brought under control by the Civil Protection Department after some 30 minutes but the flames caused thick plumes of smoke that were visible from various areas across Malta. The nine people who were affected badly by the smoke were treated on site and no one required hospitalisation, a spokesperson for the police said. Seven of these are workers and two are resident migrants.

The Marsa open centre hosts more than 400 migrants.

Mizzi was revealed in 2016 to have opened a Panama company soon after 2013, with an offshore trust in New Zealand. It is unclear whether a criminal investigation was ever kicked off by the police over suspicions of tax avoidance or layering to hide the proceeds of alleged bribes.

Mizzi has been adamant that he has never had any association with Fenech’s 17 Black, which Keith Schembri, the PM’s chief of staff, was revealed to have indicated as a ‘target client’, according to emails unearthed by the Daphne Project. Under his purview, Tumas scion Yorgen Fenech’s Electrogas was chosen along with Socar and Siemens to build a plant and supply natural gas. “I have no association with 17 Black. My statements to you have been consistent. Under oath in court, I have explained that I had no association with either Macbridge or 17 Black. I have always said the truth, and I have no concerns about what I’ve said.”

Mizzi was demoted to a minister without portfolio in 2016 after the Panama Papers scandal, and relinquished his post as deputy leader of the Labour Party. After the 2017 election, he was re-elected and appointed tourism minister. He resigned in December 2019.

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