Malta’s options are running out

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The impunity enjoyed by the disgraced former prime minister and his untouchables depends on Labor staying in power, and that hold on power depends on their ability to maintain freedom for all.

It’s not so easy to do on an island where everything ultimately comes from abroad.

Thanks to Joseph Muscat’s massive takeover of the country’s institutions, those who enjoy impunity have been able to ensure that they are not prosecuted, fired, forced to resign or even held to account for their actions.

But one thing they cannot control is the flow of money on which their impunity depends.

The cash-for-passports program has long been a thorn in Europe’s side. He enriched service providers who took a cut for referrals, gave money to owners of empty apartments who rented at high prices to absentee tenants, and gave politicians a lucrative coffer to hand out orders. direct and fund vote-winning “improvements” in their own constituencies.

The price, of course, was paid by someone else. Oh, what a clever plan. Malta undermined the sovereignty and security of other Member States and made money.

The reprimand from Brussels did nothing to stop this, nor did discreet hints. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen finally tried non-diplomatic frankness during her last visit to Malta, saying: “We discussed the subject of golden passports and it is of the utmost importance to stop this procedure “.

It all went over the head of the Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship, Alex Muscat. Unable to distinguish opinion from ultimatum, he said, “there is a point of principle on which we do not precisely agree.”

Well, the money against passports is about to be stopped for good. MEPs voted this week to ban the practice and to severely restrict so-called “golden visas”.

The draft text states that cash-for-passport payment systems undermine the essence of EU citizenship, are “ethically, legally and economically reprehensible and pose several serious security risks”.

On golden visas, MEPs also want to ban intermediaries like Henley & Partners from peddling these schemes – and using EU symbols or the benefits of EU citizenship to do so – as well as being used to screen candidates.

The report will be voted on in early March and, when adopted, it will be sent to the Commission – the same Commission that has already told Malta to stop selling EU citizenship.

The lucrative treasury set up by Joseph Muscat is slowly but surely cutting off.

And as the seller says, that’s not all.

This week, the European Court of Justice ruled against a challenge brought by Poland and Hungary over a mechanism – yes, Julia Farrugia Portelli, a mechanism – for the EU to cut funding to member states that fail to comply not the democratic standards on which they agreed. accession.

The so-called ‘conditionality mechanism’ gives Brussels the power to limit Malta’s funding in the event of a breach of the rule of law. You know, things like rampant money laundering, the continued failure to prosecute politicians accused of corruption, and the continued failure to hold anyone accountable for the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. It is not inconceivable that this mechanism could even be used to force Malta to honor its anti-poaching obligations.

While this law was clearly aimed at Hungary and Poland, which are increasingly seen as ‘problem states’, Malta is no longer flying under the radar, able to get away with some level of dirty traffic simply because that she was too small to be a threat to anyone else.

The shameless impunity perpetrated under Joseph Muscat and his successor, and the murder of the country’s top anti-corruption journalist, have shone Europe’s spotlight on dark corners, and everyone has been shocked by the filth that has been revealed.

What will Prime Minister Abela do without EU payments? And what about those friends of friends who rely on him for direct orders?

This dual EU assault could not have come at a worse time. Not when other longstanding sources of income are also threatened.

Despite repeated attempts by the government to deny it, the gray list is having an impact. Even MFSA Chairman John Mamo said: ‘If I were to open my own business, I certainly wouldn’t go to a greylisted jurisdiction. It’s so obvious.

And now gaming giant Media and Games Invest SE (MGI) has announced plans to pull out and move to high-tax Sweden. They are not alone. Fintech company Phoenix Payments Limited made the same decision late last year, along with so many others.

The gray list is not the only barrier to attracting new business to Malta’s financial services sector. The EU is closing in on a tax harmonization deal that, when it comes into force, will remove the biggest incentive for foreign companies to establish a legal presence in the country.

But curbing Malta’s easy access to money is just the inevitable loophole that has been closed after the Muscat regime’s shameless impunity finally caught international attention.

More troubling for Abela’s survival is the dramatic transformation of Malta’s reputation from a sunny vacation spot and haven for expats into a global money laundering pariah.

A recent article by the Brussels-based EU Reporter described The election of Roberta Metsola as President of the European Parliament as a last-ditch effort to bring Malta back cold.

Along with the usual concerns about ‘seismic problems presented by its smallest member’, the article cites Malta’s ‘strengthening of ties with questionable allies’ as it moves ‘under the thumb of Chinese and Russian states’ .

While it’s not entirely fair to isolate Malta here, given Germany’s self-sabotaged energy dependence on Putin’s Russia and the amount of dodgy Russian money circulating in London , the ongoing Ukrainian crisis has resulted in action.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for a break with former pro-Kremlin Chancellor and Nord Stream 2 defender Gerhard Schröder. And government sources in the UK have leaked clues to the imminent end Tier 1 investor visas due to concerns about Russian influence. In other parts of Europe, the rule of law still holds.

Back in Malta, recent reports of Robert Abela’s alleged property dealings with an alleged kidnapper have hardened European opinion that nothing has altered the “downward spiral in the geopolitical gutters” of Malta since the forced departure of Joseph Muscat.

United States International Policy Digest’s prognosis was equally skeptical, describing Malta as “a cesspool of financial decay that leaves a stain on the whole European project” and “Europe’s next economic graveyard”.

This newspaper saw little hope for reform from within, stating: “The present administration of Malta is doing its best to keep the country in the dark in order to cover itself.” The prospect of global sanctions has been raised as a last resort for dealing with an ally now seen as a security risk.

In the meantime, there is an election to be conducted. The winner gets what’s left of the loot.

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