Malta
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A uniquely dangerous failure

“That man at Castille and Grixti were angels to me,” a woman who fraudulently benefitted from disability benefits commented. That “man at Castille” was a customer care official at OPM who directed the unemployed woman to (then) Labour MP and family doctor Silvio Grixti. For her, Grixti was her ‘guardian angel’.

Grixti allegedly helped hundreds of his constituents, like her, to criminally earn thousands of euros in disability benefits they weren’t entitled to. Times of Malta estimated 800 persons benefitted from the fraudulent scheme to the tune of €4.3 million. That is industrial scale fraud.

All fingers pointed at Grixti as ‘the centre’ of the alleged criminal racket. But Grixti couldn’t have pulled off such a massive fraud alone. The real culprit is Robert Abela.

Grixti was only a pawn. He didn’t need to commit crimes to get elected. He was a respected and well-loved family doctor. In 2017, he got 2,452 first-count votes. Only ministers Chris Fearne and Carmelo Abela got more. Grixti trounced Owen Bonnici, Helena Dalli, Joe Mizzi and Chris Agius. Grixti didn’t need this. He didn’t mastermind it. He was recruited.

He was just a cog in a massive corruption machine – an immoral, dumb cog – but still a cog. That corruption machine worked like clockwork for years because so many others, much higher up, were involved.

If Grixti were working alone, he’d be caught in a flash. The government’s 2020 official figures showed disability allowances rocketed by €2 million in just one year. That was a 13 per cent increase. Was Malta suddenly struck with a disability epidemic in 2019? Did the cases of epilepsy inexplicably multiply? Social security officials must have noticed cases were concentrated in Żabbar, Żejtun and Paola.

They surely realised the common factor was a certain family doctor – Grixti.

The whole scam should have been halted from the start – it was far too obvious. But it ran for years because many closed both eyes and Grixti was protected – and still is. Almost two years after his police interrogation, he’s still practising with no prosecution in sight. He hasn’t been referred to the Medical Council for serious professional misconduct.

Grixti resigned his parliamentary seat on December 20, 2021. News leaked about his investigation by the Financial Crimes Investigation Department over forged medical documents – but the scale of his fraud was kept secret.

His party leader and prime minister was Abela.

Abela surely knew the real reasons for Grixti’s resignation. Grixti couldn’t have resigned without divulging to Abela what he’d been up to.

Any decent leader would have been shocked by Grixti’s alleged criminality. Any respectable prime minister would have taken steps to ensure Grixti was removed from all positions within the government. Any politician of integrity would have stripped Grixti of all roles.  Any responsible head of government would have ordered an immediate review of disability claimants and reinforced measures to prevent abuse of public funds. He would have sought out collaborators within the government and the public service. He would have made a public statement.

Abela did none of that. Instead, he shielded Grixti by  hiding from the public the reasons for his resignation. Then he rewarded Grixti. He kept him as an OPM adviser with Projects Malta, earning €68,621. He retained him as a consultant with Transport Malta, earning €50,761. He kept him as a consultant at the health ministry, earning another €23,123. He was kept as a medical board member at the Lands Authority. Abela even kept Grixti on the welfare committee knowing the man couldn’t be trusted.

Abela kept Grixti on the gravy train, benefiting from the State he spent years allegedly robbing and cheating.

Robert Abela hid the reasons for Silvio Grixti’s resignation from the public

This wasn’t mere negligence by Abela. Abela knew about Grixti’s alleged crimes, falsehoods, forgeries and fraud.  There are only two possible reasons why Abela kept pumping  thousands to an alleged  fraudster – to reward him for votes ‘won’ for Labour and to buy his silence. Grixti knows too much.

Abela did the same with Sandro Craus, the man accused of fixing Melvin Theuma’s phantom job. Abela gave him a €65,000 gift of a Projects Plus job and obscene guarantees that, if fired, he’ll get five years’ worth of salary and allowances. If he works five years and then gets  sacked, Craus will get 10 years’ salaries plus all allowances.

When Abela sacked disgraced police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, he simultaneously appointed him a part-time consultant at the home affairs ministry on a €31,000 package. Cutajar’s contract was signed on the very day Abela announced his ‘resignation’. Cutajar also got a fully paid car even though his consultancy was part-time. It was his reward for allegedly passing on confidential information about money-laundering investigations to Theuma.

When Joseph Cuschieri, President George Vella’s son-in-law and MFSA CEO travelled to Las Vegas with Yorgen Fenech, Abela defended him claiming he had done nothing wrong.

An MFSA report subsequently concluded that Cuschieri had breached financial ethics guidelines.

This is the immorality of Abela. Instead of condemning and jettisoning those who commit serious misdeeds, he buys their silence with public funds – Frank Fabri, Justyne Caruana, Edward Zammit Lewis, Rosianne Cutajar, Johann Buttigieg, Jonathan Cardona, Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Norma Saliba, Cuschieri – all benefitted from Abela’s generous protection.

 Grixti is just the latest addition to Abela’s list – rewarded for his alleged fraud and his silence. Even now that the industrial scale of the scandal is exposed, Abela  does nothing except claim that he took immediate action. What immediate action?

Has Abela ordered ordered a thorough investigation of all disability benefits? Has he instituted measures to prevent a repeat? Has he demanded the resignation of the minister responsible? Of course not. He’s too busy burying the truth – he has too much to hide.

Abela is deviously claiming that “these are still allegations”, and that is what they will remain because Abela’s police force conveniently fails to indic Grixti.

If they are allegations why did Abela force Grixti out?

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children. What Abela leaves for our children is a shameful country of cowards, crooks and criminals.

When will the nation realise Abela is a uniquely dangerous failure?