Malta must appoint a special anti-corruption judge if it is to get serious on tackling the problem, Labour MEP and former Prime Minister Alfred Sant has said.
“I proposed such a judge with his or her own resources twenty years ago when I was Prime Minister because I thought, and still do, that it was the only real solution against corruption,” Sant said on a Times Talk interview. “Yet everyone opposed it back then – including the Nationalist Party, the judiciary, and the law association. No one has proposed that now.”
In his interview with Times editor Herman Grech, Sant gave a blunt assessment on the corruption situation in Malta.
“We don’t have a consensus on corruption here. As it stands, whenever the PN is in government, everyone who supports the Nationalists – and that includes The Times – don’t look at corruption at all,” he said. “Yet whenever Labour wins the election, the government gets a perception, which could be true although I don’t believe it, that it is corrupt.”
When Grech shifted the interview to the Panama Papers, Sant admitted he still doubts tourism minister Konrad Mizzi’s justification of his offshore financial setup. However, he refused to criticise Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s political judgement for keeping Mizzi on board, arguing the minister’s explanation was accepted as true by the public in the last election.
Sant also claimed certain foreign MEPs are only pretending to care about the state of the rule of law in Malta to conceal their intention to clamp down on the island’s attractive taxation system.
“There’s a big drive against financial services in the European Parliament, Malta has been labelled a tax haven, and it’s very convenient for MEPs to tag rule of law issues onto concerns of Malta’s taxation status,” he said. “For the past eight years, there has been a big emphasis on austerity policies in Europe, the backlog of which is politicians having to square the concept of tax evasion and avoidance with social justice. The end result is that austerity gets tied in with fighting tax evasion and tax evasion. It’s a very good political game, I appreciate that, but it’s being used to hit Malta’s financial services.”