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Seven years ago, if someone told me that in 2023 we’d be reading stories about disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s €11,800 a month contract with an exotic birds company owned by a casino that got a once-in-a-lifetime sweetheart deal from Muscat’s government, I’d have probably laughed it off as a funny but oddly specific joke.

My initially nervous laughter would then turn to straight-faced concern if that same someone told me that, in 2023, we’d be occasionally hearing from Muscat’s equally disgraced former chief of staff Keith Schembri to distance himself from a murder conspiracy allegation every now and then.

I’d have probably started shaking down that same someone for more answers if they went on to say that the other head of this inglorious, three-headed hydra – none other than disgraced former energy minister Konrad Mizzi – who was previously so in-your-face and constantly hogging the limelight wherever possible, now looks like a severely shrunken version of himself, popping up on the radar only when forced to enter a courtroom or the halls of Parliament for a grilling.

But it was never just those three, was it? Lurking in the shadows, exchanging messages in confidence with several high-profile members of the Labour government like a seasoned lobbyist, there was always Yorgen Fenech, who has been held under arrest since November 2019 following his outlandish escape attempt on a yacht.

It is now widely acknowledged that Fenech’s cosiness with the Labour government also extended towards highly lucrative government contracts, indicating clearly that the Labour government was more than happy to do business with Fenech. Off the top of my head, I can think of several instances in which Fenech stood to make a killing from a very generous public purse: the Electrogas deal, the Montenegro wind farm scandal, and the Marsa junction project, to name a few.

We also know for a fact that there were offshore companies set up to channel millions of that money from the very generous public trough purse to the same people who were involved in giving Fenech those sweetheart deals in the first place.

What would have really blown my mind seven years ago would have been to know that eventually, after just under four years within Corradino’s unforgiving walls, Fenech would be paying his lawyers to tell anyone who’s willing to listen that the same people who were once giving him all this incredibly favourable treatment are actually the ones who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia and that he, presenting himself as the unblemished holy sacrificial lamb that he thinks he is, is not the mastermind of the conspiracy that claimed the journalist’s life.

In fact, his lawyers have been hard at work repeating this narrative since at least 1 October 2020.

As one particularly assiduous reader reminded me yesterday, Fenech’s plea of innocence contrasts starkly with the fact that shortly after his arrest, Fenech had divulged information with police investigators in his bid for a pardon, only to then file a separate case to have that same information expunged following the refusal of his pardon request.

Fenech had made a bid for a pardon twice – once through a mechanism that would require approval from Cabinet, and the other through a mechanism that would require approval from the office of the President. Both bids were turned down, with Muscat calling an emergency Cabinet meeting that led to the decision to reject the pardon bid. The meeting, held on 29 November 2019, lasted over six hours. That same early morning after the meeting was concluded at 3am, journalists were illegally detained inside Castille while Muscat made his way out of the meeting.

Logic dictates that at this point in time, not a word that’s coming out of any of these individuals’ mouths – Fenech, Muscat, Mizzi, Schembri, and all the other high-ranking government executives who were linked with corruption – can be trusted unless hard evidence is at hand.

Why should anyone trust a word of what these individuals, who have all been accused of fraudulent and vitiated deals, trading in influence, abuse of office, and all sorts of corrupt practices carried out in broad daylight and nary an inch of shame visible anywhere, say?

The only certainty is that everyone involved in these major scandals that have shaken our country to its core is cowering in a corner, warily looking at the door, sleeping with one eye open and a metaphorical revolver beneath the pillow.

Fenech name-dropped Schembri again just yesterday. Ram Tumuluri, the former frontman of the fraudulent Vitals Global Healthcare deal, did the same with the Securities and Exchanges Commission in the US, earlier this year. To this day, Muscat still sticks his neck out for his former right-hand man and their lackey-in-command. Current prime minister Robert Abela, in the meantime, is facing internal revolt within his party that has long been split asunder by the rot that has been growing inside it.

All the knives are out. What once seemed like an unshakeable band of thieves laughing all the way to the bank now looks more like a prison yard where someone is about to get shanked.

The ghost of Keith Schembri as the alleged hidden hand behind Daphne’s murder hangs over the Labour Party like a long wintry night.

As long as we keep searching for the full truth and nothing but the whole truth, these people will never rest easy. A small comfort, considering the price we’ve all paid for it, but a welcome one nonetheless.

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