Blog post by Fr. David Muscat
Keep digging your head in the sand and in a few years’ time Malta might end blacklisted.
That is the impression I got after hearing the FATF president, Marcus Pleyer, replying to Elisabeth Hearst, author at AML Intelligence. Mr. Pleyer answered her; ‘’being on the grey list does not mean having any legal consequences as opposed to the blacklisting.’’
With clinical German precision, Mr. Pleyer declined to some of the other puerile questions posed by the Maltese journalists asking whether this downgrading was bullying tactics by the big countries on Malta. Neither did he reply, when asked, which countries pushed to put Malta on the grey list and why.
It was also interesting to hear his admission that the FATF follows the local media closely. This of course means that what the Maltese Prime Minister says, even locally, is taken seriously and acknowledged internationally. It then becomes useless and globally shameful for the Prime Minister to promise cooperation to them. What value can FATF put on the Prime Minister to assure them one thing when actually preaching defiance at home?
I’m sure Mr. Pleyer was amused by Evarist Bartolo’s delusion of grandeur especially when the latter used metaphors from Greek history. Bartolo’s next fantasy will be that of Robert Abela playing the part of the gym-trained Spartan King Leonidas bravely fighting the wicked foreigners. He does not know that most Germans are well knowledgeable in the Classics and still have Greek and Latin taught to them in schools.
Perhaps the Americans are upset about Iranian oil passing into Europe through Hurd’s Bank and other terrorism-related issues. The Maltese government tragically alienated a long-time ally, the United Kingdom by backstabbing them during the Brexit negotiations. The Germans will never forgive Malta when an auto manufacturing giant moved its offices to our isle to avoid German tax.
Irrespective of the true reason, very few seem to grasp the full effect of the FATF’s verdict which is the irreparable damage done to our reputation. Many in Europe and all over the globe are wondering whether the Maltese can be trusted.
Defiance and calls for national unity of government and opposition, to defy the FATF are auto-goals that will eventually destroy the financial services industry as craftily devised by Lawrence Gonzi and fine-tuned by Joseph Muscat. One is delighted if this were really to happen because Gonzi Economics is nothing more than the Jewish worship of the ancient golden calf and the changing of stones into bread by Jesus. Nowadays this translates as financial speculation fundamentally aimed at a quick profit that continues to wreak havoc (Fratelli Tutti, 168).
I will never stop repeating that it is not entirely the Labour government’s fault that we got Grey-listed. Some Repubblika fans who now bemoan Labour for Malta’s Grey-listing might be very surprised when the FATF’s action plan is fully implemented since this will result in the accurate exposure of ownership information for their shell companies. They will be shocked when all will finally learn that the people who earned most money, perhaps illicitly, during Labour’s seven years of plenty, are actually from Nationalist stables and some of the most vociferous critics of Labour. They criticize Joseph Muscat and his gang not because they treasure justice but because the former’s incompetence killed the immoral goose that was laying golden eggs.
Now here is some news for the turncoat Nationalists, the lawyers working in the Financial Services Industry, the financial wizards, and the skyscraper contractors who scooped millions of Euros during Joseph Muscat’s seven years of plenty.
The Germans and others would still insist that we are put on the greylist even if there were no assassinations, no corruption, no dodgy deals, and indeed no money laundering by the Russian oligarchs, the Middle Eastern sheikhs, the Chinese tycoons, the African dictators, or Cosa Nostra bosses.
What Germans and other Europeans are saying is that the Maltese politician cannot be trusted. Many are starting to argue that when Malta joined the EU, we tricked our European partners when we declared that our corporate tax is 35% when due to refunds, the de-facto rate is 30% less. So, if the FATF were to grade Malta to be whiter than snow-white, our tax regime or corporate tax system would still be illicit, anti-social, and immoral. Is this treachery the other significant unresolved issue Mr. Pleyer hinted at yesterday but cannot reveal in order to protect a free discussion?
Undoubtedly, offshore financial jurisdictions are a source of irritation for the large, developed economies. I repeat that the FATF’s job is not specifically to rectify this for there are numerous other tax havens that were never grey-listed. But could it be that the leverage is being applied specifically to change the Maltese tax regime? The ingenious way of diverting tax revenues legitimately due to foreign governments, into Malta’s treasury because we tricked them during the EU accession talks, might well be the true and deserved reason for greylisting.
This is why nothing will change even if some criminals do get caught and prosecuted unless our tax system is overhauled.
Nothing will change because most news editors and local opinion-makers don’t give a hoot about Catholic Social Teaching. The Popes never tire to underscore the error of the neoliberal dogma which holds that the economic and moral orders are so completely distinct one from the other that the former is in no way dependent on the latter. (Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 42).
Being godless heathens, the editors of Maltese newspapers reject Christ’s declarations with respect to tax evasion in the famous episodes of the stater coin found in the fish’s mouth by Peter to pay the temple tax, and the notorious saying “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”. I have resigned myself that the Maltese have already lost their Catholic faith and have become either practically atheists or worse, bourgeois prosperity gospel Christians.
Many have criticized me for being anti-patriotic and un-Christian because I expressed that Malta’s greylisting is just. I will answer this accusation by quoting literally Mr. Pleyer’s reply to Elisabeth Hearst who posed the same accusation yesterday: ‘’the long-term effects are positive’’. Now that’s what I call a genuine and honest economic vision! Take heart for the Lord disciplines the ones he loves. (Hebrews 12,6). We need this crisis to goad us to change direction.