Friday, 29 September 2000

Passionate Disinterest

The Malta Independent

Passionate Disinterest

I have made this point elsewhere in the Press and stress it again here. The non-politically controlled media is doing the democratic structures of this country a great disservice in using very different measures in treating cases which could be a source of embarrassment to the two main political parties.

Whilst it has flogged beyond the point of diminishing returns the supposed irregularities on Labour` side the` Press shows passionate disinterest in cases which could embarrass the nationalist party in government even though the superficial evidence is that much more credible.

The Malta Independent last Friday defended itself editorially from such accusation arguing that their disinterest is due to the fact that Labour reached its conclusion before any investigations and consequently this affair is not worth following as it has become pure political armoury. It is very weak defence indeed.

Facts are facts and no amount of twisting will change them. Labour has made the point` that there is enough superficial evidence of external, possibly political,` interference in bank credit facilities of several million allowed to a small car importer controlled by a single person without track record. It has called for urgent independent investigations.` The first duty of such investigations is of the Board of the Bank who are probably loaded with such exposure decided upon by prior incumbents and are doing their damn best` to put up a brave face for them.` Under the pretext of bank secrecy the Bank has refused to comment on the case except to deny that there were internal reports critical of the exposures allowed and indicating outside influence.

In spite of sufficient indications of fraud in handling collections from clients without returning relevant bills of exchange the bank shows no wish to press fraud, probably fearing that this will bring the financial collapse of the company compounding further the reducing` recoverability prospects of the credit.

There is the duty of the regulator, in this case the Central Bank, to ensure that credit exposure decisions were taken in the ordinary course of business by the Bank without outside pressures.

Yet in spite of the smoke getting thicker and thicker we are expected to believe there is no fire. The Editor of this paper is quite willing to do so because of` misplaced speculation` as to whose hidden hand there could be behind these untoward exposures.

Rather than press for an independent investigation the Editor feels that because the absence of such investigation has unavoidably given rise to speculation about political` guilt, which until proven remains speculation period, then it should refrain from pressing for a truly independent investigation which would hopefully establish the facts and give us the truth, whatever it may be.

I emphasize that my experience of dealing with Bank of Valletta over a long period of time is that they take credit decisions in a very professional and thorough manner and if they err they do so on the side of caution. Which is all the more reason for suspecting that not all is as it should be in the particular case in question.

The Malta Independent has been following step by step an innocuous case where the Broadcasting Authority are trying to impose on Super One a right of reply beyond the obligations provided for in the Press Act. Why they take such a passionate disinterest in more serious cases where political interference in fraud cases is suspected begs questions which remain unanswered.

Alfred Mifsud

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