European Parliament sends its own mission to corruption and murder in Malta

Photograph by Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash

The European Parliament is sending its own fact-finding mission to Malta to investigate the rule of law in the EU country. This was decided on a proposal from the European Greens due to recent new developments in the investigation into the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. The European Parliament will discuss the case in December.

Parliament also sent a mission to Malta not long after the murder, raising concerns about corruption and the independence of the investigation. The European Parliament said last year not to rest until those responsible have been tried. The new mission should also focus on any ties of Prime Minister Muscat to the assassination, say the Greens. He is said to have held those involved over his head.

Dutch parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt has also gotten stuck in the matter. As rapporteur for the Council of Europe, he identified serious deficiencies in the rule of law in Malta earlier this year and expressed serious criticism of Muscat. Omtzigt sees serious flaws in the Maltese constitutional state. There is a huge conflict of interest in Maltese politics. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appoints judges, the chief of police and ministers. In addition, parliamentary control over the government is insufficient.

The abuses in Malta also threaten the rest of the European Union. Malta has been under attack abroad for years. For example, the dwarf state is known as the Panama of the European Union. Multinationals can avoid billions of euros in tax, thanks to the very low tax rates. Maltese politicians themselves have also been linked to tax avoidance. The notorious Panama Papers, for example, featured the names of two Maltese ministers. They would have channeled money from a dubious energyiedeal through companies in Panama.

In addition, according to the European banking supervisor EBA, Malta is failing in financial supervision of money laundering and terrorist financing. The country is acting in violation of the European money laundering directive, the regulator wrote in a scathing report last year.

The island has been earning hundreds of millions of euros a year since 2014 by selling Maltese (and thus EU) passports. For about 900,000 euros, the buyer gets a Maltese passport and thereby also becomes a citizen of the European Union. Buyers can travel to EU countries without visa or strict controls, open bank accounts and start businesses. Independent researchers have already called it 'a threat to the yellow EU'.

Prime Minister Muscat has convened the Maltese government for urgent consideration. Three ministers have since resigned and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was also arrested. A businessman who is said to have paid for the murder points to Schembri as the mastermind behind the liquidation. The chief of staff has since been released. The businessman has filed for amnesty in exchange for cooperation with the investigation.