US State Department’s ‘rare reprimand’ says US ‘has lost patience’ with Malta


The US State Department’s travel ban on disgraced former officials Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri has been described as “a rare rebuke from an otherwise friendly country” by a former diplomat consulted by The Shift.

“The State Department does not sanction anyone suspected of significant corruption. It does so only when the prospects for domestic prosecution are weak. That’s why we only read cases from countries where the rate of impunity is high, ”said the former diplomat.

The message sent, according to the source, is that the United States has lost patience with Malta’s investigations into these extremely serious corruption cases, and it is awaiting results. This was also confirmed by comments sent to The Shift by the United States Embassy a day after Schembri, Mizzi and their families were banned from traveling to the United States for their involvement in corruption.

Separately, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) graylisted Malta earlier this year, one of the main reasons being the lack of high-level prosecutions for money laundering offenses.

The former diplomat pointed out that, if the Maltese police did not act against Mizzi and Schembri, an American connection to a corrupt hospital deal orchestrated by Konrad Mizzi could allow charges to be laid in the United States under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), where bribing foreign officials is punishable by jail time and fines of up to $ 21,663 per offense.

The State Department’s official statement regarding the public designation of Mizzi and Schembri cited the Electrogas deal, which led to the privatization of Malta’s power plant, as an example of acts involving “significant corruption” that involved the signing of Mizzi as Minister of Energy and the involvement of Schembri. as a former chief of staff to the Prime Minister.

The former diplomat’s comment on the deal that led to the sale of three of Malta’s public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare and later to Steward Healthcare suggests that the United States’ scrutiny of Malta’s affairs is not limited specifically to the Electrogas agreement and can be extended to the hospital concession of 4 billion euros.

Who else is on the list?

A review of the State Department’s list of public designations reveals that it mainly includes people who have committed serious crimes in corrupt countries, including the former Albanian prime minister and the former prosecutor general of Slovakia, as well as people associated with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal. Khashoggi.

In addition to officials from Albania, Slovakia and Saudi Arabia, officials from Iran, Ukraine, Paraguay, Bulgaria, Namibia and Honduras were also on the list. Transparency International assigns a score to each country based on its levels of perceived corruption in the public sector.

A review of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2020 shows that while Malta has slipped to number 52 on the list, the other countries on the US public designation list have done worse.

This, linked to the fact that corruption ensures that senior officials such as Schembri and Mizzi are not prosecuted for their crimes, adds more weight to the former diplomat’s statements to The Shift that the list is reserved for countries in which “The prospects for national prosecution are poor.”

As Malta is linked to Saudi Arabia, a country known for serious human rights violations, at 52sd place, the two countries are immediately followed by Namibia in 57e place and Slovakia in 60e place.

While Saudi Arabia’s public designations were limited to those accused of being involved in Khashoggi’s assassination, former Slovak prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka was, like Mizzi and Schembri, named for involvement in acts of corruption.

On October 31, 2019, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) obtained video evidence of a meeting between Trnka and the man who allegedly organized the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, Marian Kočner. OCCRP’s extensive reporting has exposed Kočner’s considerable influence over the entire Slovak judicial system.

In a recent interview with Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, The Shift journalist and co-editor of Exit.al Alice Elizabeth Taylor explained how the Albanian state had failed to investigate the matter. use of the bomb. in the murder of the journalist was brought to Malta.

Taylor, who lives and works in Albania, has documented the country’s failure to curb the spread of organized crime, describing it as a prime location for domestic and international money launderers, a source and transit for human trafficking. humans, and a major exporter of illegal drugs. .


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