Malta could be on the brink of collapse because the island’s reputation has been ripped to shreds by our politicians.
Banks are shutting down people’s accounts, authorities are slapping massive fines and investors are being driven away by bureaucracy as the threat of greylisting by Moneyval looms ever closer over Malta.
Meanwhile, one of Malta’s junior ministers thinks it’s perfectly fine for her to accept a small bag carrying €50,000 in cash in return for brokering a property deal with Yorgen Fenech, the man she knew was involved in corrupt business through 17 Black.
It’s not ok.
This is exactly the sort of behaviour that ruins the economy for everyone else. Our politicians should be cleaning up our image, not engaging in shady deals.
One of the Labour Party’s young female rising stars should not be letting everyone else down by consorting with demonstrably corrupt businessmen.
And that’s assuming this wasn’t just a way everyone collaborated on money laundering for Yorgen Fenech, the man suspected of killing Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Twelve hours after this story appeared on two major newspapers, you would think Cutajar would have been fired by now.
Instead, Robert Abela altogether avoided the issue in a 30-minute address, choosing to turn his attentions to “unnecessary” delays in a public inquiry exposing Fenech’s infiltration of the entire government.
Unless, of course, he thinks Cutajar is innocent, which raises a whole different set of concerns.
Let’s analyse things more carefully.
On the one hand, you have The Sunday Times and MaltaToday, who do not often agree on much, publishing separate investigations into Cutajar and her personal aide acting as brokers for Fenech’s purchase of a 3.1 million Mdina home, pocketing 46,500 each in undeclared cash.
Neither Cutajar or her aide are actually property brokers, raising serious suspicions over the deal, especially considering Fenech’s links to alleged government corruption and the fact that she didn’t speak up about it of her own free will (as she is still doing over her actual relationship with Fenech).
On the other hand, you have Rosianne Cutajar, the politician in question.
Instead of responding to journalists’ questions, she sent them a letter written by her lawyer, Edward Gatt, who also represents Keith Schembri in a myriad of criminal investigations, including the assassination of Caruana Galizia.
The letter does not deny that Cutajar received the fee, rather that the owner of the property, who is seeking repayment because of the deal fell through after Fenech’s arrest, should take his issue up with third-parties.
After the stories were published, Cutajar uploaded a Facebook post that is a textbook case of conspiracy theorising, diversionary tactics and undermining journalism.
“Żewġ gazzetti bl-Ingliż, illum ħargu storja, b’dettalji bażiċi kunfliġġenti u kumbinazzjoni fl-istess jum, fuq każ li skont huma seħħ iktar minn sena u nofs ilu.”
Notice that Cutajar does not deny the substance of the claims. Instead, she points towards a conspiracy where two newspapers “coincidentally” published the same story on the same day about something that, according to them, happened a year and a half ago. (This happens sometimes. Word spreads in journalistic stories and both newspapers chase the same scoop.)
“Dawn iż-żewġ gazzetti jallegaw li hemm min qed jitlob flus lura ta’ allegat senserija fi żmien meta ma kontx Segretarju Parlamentari,” she continues, using ‘alleged’ twice to cast doubt, while at the same time stressing that she was not a Cabinet member at the time (as if that should make a difference if this weren’t true).
At the time, for clarity’s sake, Cutajar was a sitting MP employed directly within the Office of the Prime Minister as the Commissioner for Simplification of Bureaucracy. That office, no one needs reminding, has been linked to the assassination and multi-million-euro corruption schemes with Fenech.
She was also one of Malta’s representatives in the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly. She was instrumental in fronting the government’s opposition to launching the public inquiry into the assassination, which it was finally forced to do following widespread pressure.
Cutajar then pulls out the old card of publishing a document, nevermind that it’s just a document she herself created weeks ago with her lawyer.
“Ma jurux, iżda, ittra legali li, permezz tal-avukati tiegħi, jien kont bgħatt xahrejn ilu lil min allegatament għamel din it-talba, u li kopja tagħha tajt lil dawn iż-żewġ gazzetti bħala tweġiba għad-domandi tagħhom,” she says, confirming that she did not reply to journalists’ questions but only sent them the letter.
Somehow this letter suddenly becomes “il-fatti”.
“Għalhekk, fin-nuqqas taż-żewġ gazzetti li jippreżentaw il-fatti, qed nippublika jien din l-ittra legali li tagħmilha ċara li m’għandi x’naqsam xejn ma’ din l-allegat talba, u jekk hemm min qed jitlob xi ħaġa lura, għandu jagħmel din it-talba lil min hu konċernat,” she says, shifting blame to her aide who was also mentioned in the story and received the same sum that she did.
Her aide has since published a Facebook post denying wrongdoing while at the same time taking all the blame.
Cutajar concludes with a veiled threat, that she will only respond to the vendor in court: “Nifhem li, sa llum, m’hemm l-ebda kawża jew proċeduri l-Qorti fuq din l-allegat talba, kif is-soltu jiġri meta xi ħadd jemmen li għandu dritt għal xi ħaġa f’kwistjoni ċivili.”
And then, one for the rabble and the headlines: “Jien konvinta li dejjem aġixxejt b’mod korrett, legalment, etikament u politikament, u fuq dan lesta niddefendi ismi kif u fejn neċessarju.”
One news has its headline: “Rosianne Cutajar clarifies by publishing a legal letter that others did not publish”. Crisis averted. But what about that €46,500?
Cutajar’s statement is the opposite of what an innocent person would have written. It shows no signs of a serious politician at the start of their career fighting for important issues in the country.
It shows Cutajar is part of the same flock that has plagued Malta for decades through differing administrations. That she is willing to consort with corrupt business or broker real estate deals for them.
It shows that Malta, and its government, is still ready to accept that a Cabinet member can accept €50,000 in cash for anything.
It shows that despite assassinations, protests, arrests, resignations, and the threat of being greylisted by Moneyval, Malta’s government is still reluctant to change.
The sad truth is, we’ve known for a while that Rosianne Cutajar is a terribly compromised politician. We hoped that because she was a young, smart, liberal and well-informed woman, she would not let us down.
We were wrong. We must admit our mistakes and take decisive action.
Cutajar is not alone and there are many compromised top government officials and Cabinet members that must be removed. It is the only way for Abela to finally break free and enact the change the country desperately needs.
Instead, he has reinstated Justyne Caruana as Education Minister, despite her estranged husband, former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, being under criminal investigation for leaking information on the case to Fenech. (They separated after his intimate relationship with Fenech became public.)
Edward Zammit Lewis remains Justice Minister, tasking with overseeing the much-needed reform of our judicial system. He has shared hundreds of Whatsapp messages with Fenech and even stayed at his Hilton Hotel in France for free.
And that’s not to mention the many others who are under criminal investigation for alleged trading in influence with Fenech but whose names are yet to be revealed.
And what of Judge Abigail Lofaro? Her husband is himself linked to the deal. The board itself is a champion of transparency and it is not unreasonable to demand that Lofaro provide an immediate explanation.
Lofaro did accept her appointment to the inquiry board after the deal took place. The board itself even started after Fenech was arrested. At the very least, we need a thorough explanation that dignifies her position.
The public inquiry is already being undermined at every turn by government officials and those closest to them. It has been one of the few institutional structures that has been able to shed light on Fenech’s web inside the corridors of power.
Abela can tell the crowds that he’s not afraid of the inquiry because he does not feature. But can he say the same of his Cabinet?
His predecessor Joseph Muscat grew to regret not taking action quick enough when those around him became toxic.
Will Abela live to share those regrets?
Do you think Rosianne Cutajar should step down? Comment below