Malta is a mere spec on any Mercator map. Easily mistaken for a bit of fly dung stuck on an atlas by many who are alien to the composition of the Mediterranean. With our population of around half a million, most of the big European cities – not countries – are already much larger than the whole of our nation.
Population wise, nearby Sicilian towns of Palermo and Catania are both independently larger than Malta. The city of London is 19 times greater than our islands; Rome is 9 times greater; Paris is 22 times greater; Berlin 7 times greater; Moscow has a staggering 25 times bigger population, and the list goes on. But notwithstanding our minute physical presence in the league of nations worldwide, Malta is a fiercely proud nation with its own impressive and chequered history and a population that sincerely believes – rightly or wrongly – it is God’s gift to the world.
Speaking of God, I remember an anecdote from way back into my youth. To the time when I had long hair, when body fat was non-existent and when my whole day was wholly and exclusively dedicated to the Labour Party which I loved. It was the mid-eighties and I was attending a diplomatic reception with other Party bigwigs of the time, including Dr. Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, Prime Minister and Party Leader. The subject on everyone’s agenda was the Reagan bombing of Gaddafi’s residence in Tripoli and the near assassination of the latter during the raid, thwarted only at the last minute by Malta’s timely warning to our Libyan neighbours of military planes approaching.
The French dignitary, together with other VIPs, were grossly engaged in discussion with a very indignant Maltese Prime Minister who was adamantly trying to underline the point that illegal, uncalled for and unsanctioned military interventions in our region will inevitably jeopardise the security and status quo of the Mediterranean region, ushering in an era of uncertainty and religious extremism. Keep in mind that in the eighties, no one had ever heard of Bin Laden or Al Qaeda or the Taliban. The hawkish French dignitary was evidently ruffled by what our Premier was trying hard to drill into his consciousness and at one point, our diplomat found the right excuse to halt the latter’s diatribe and refresh his glass of alcohol at the bar.
I followed him to the bar and diplomatically tried to continue the discussion in French, commencing with innocent chit chat to put the exasperated French diplomat at ease. I remember clearly what he said to me during this chit chat as if it was yesterday. He aired his exasperation and simultaneous admiration of our resilience and remarked on how set we are in our thoughts and beliefs, with no quarter given to the other side. He jokingly said that God knows what He is doing and that the fact that He had created a very small Malta instead of a Malta the size of France was all part of His divine plan. Imagine a Malta as big as France or, God forbid, as big as the US with our very own nuclear briefcase and codes, he muttered in exasperation…
Malta is a fiercely proud nation with its own impressive and chequered history & a population that sincerely believes it is God’s gift to the world.
As a nation, we are as patriotic as can be. Except in cheering on our national soccer team, although even that outburst of patriotism is gaining momentum. We are fiercely proud of who we are. And we cannot fathom or tolerate anyone or anything who belittles our courageous little nation. On the extreme side, we yearly believe that there is a European conspiracy to halt us from winning Eurovision, because, you know, our singer/s is always the best there is. We have the best fireworks in the world, even though the Asians had thousands of years more practice than we on this. We think that our beaches are the best in the world, never mind the fact that neighbouring countries literally have hundreds of kilometres of virgin, sandy beaches. But these eccentricities do not belittle the fact that our nation is as proud of its identity as any other nation.
So, to poor little me, I cannot understand how the Right in Malta has this ever-present, inbuilt, masochistic tendency to attack its own country outside Malta in reputable fora and still believe that it is doing justice to our population. I cannot understand how fellow Maltese show uncalled-for exhilaration when something negative befalls our country. Just recently, we had the Opposition Leader penning an incredibly naïve and dangerous letter to the FATF just days before there was a decision from the latter which might potentially harm our national interests and our economy in devastating measure, unless properly handled by a serious government. Undoubtedly ghost written from Mdina due to its similarity to other past initiatives, this letter projects just how dangerous the opposition is in opposition, let alone in government. And then, to quote verbatim, we have the Hon. Jason Azzopardi harking back to age-old tribalism and stating that:
‘Gvern immexxi mill-PN biss jista’ joħroġna minnha u jerġa’ jġib Malta rispettata. Ingħaqdu mal-PN intom ilkoll ta’ rieda tajba biex f’task force nazzjonali kif sejjaħ Bernard Grech, l-istess bħalmeta konna ser insiru membri tal-UE u tal-Euro, innisslu t-tama u tirbaħ Malta.’
It is a trend which we have seen countless times, throughout decades of political shenanigans.
I cannot understand how the Right in Malta has this ever-present, inbuilt, masochistic tendency to attack its own country outside Malta in reputable fora and still believe that it is doing justice to our population.
So, let me turn your attention to another country. Germany. And to just one German institution. Deutsche Bank. A bank given its license by the Prussian authorities in 1870. As the largest German banking institution, it is a component of the DAX stock market index and, most importantly, it is considered a systemically important bank by the Financial Stability Board. I won’t even digress into the horrid goings-on of this bank during the period of Nazi German rule of 1933-1945. Let us just look at this last decade.
Germany’s largest bank has been on the A–List of international scandals in a repetitive and coordinated manner for decades:
1. Deutsche Bank bought up poorly secured mortgages from US home buyers, wrapped them up in highly complex financial products, slapped them with top ratings, and sold them on to other banks as secure investment products. When the market collapsed, the bonds were instantly worthless. Meanwhile, internally, Deutsche Bank had long bet on a crash — and made a lot of money doing so. In 2013, the bank was given a penalty; it had to pay $1.9 billion to then-nationalised US construction financiers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The bank agreed on a settlement with US authorities in 2017. Initial talks were of $14 billion. In the end, the bank paid $7.2 billion.
2. In 2015 the bank had used stock transactions to launder $10 billion-worth of dirty money in Russian rubles. Since the transactions were in dollars, US authorities again intervened. The penalty this time: $600 million.
3. In 2013, the European Commission imposed a fine of €1.7 billion on six major international banks after traders manipulated interest rates. The largest fine of €725 million was paid by Deutsche Bank, which was later fined another $2.5 billion dollars by British and US authorities.
4. Much lower were the fines Deutsche Bank had to pay after US authorities said it had violated an existing US embargo on Iran. The bank paid out $260 million in 2015, far less than the $1.4 billion Deutsche Bank rival Commerzbank was forced to pay over similar accusations.
5. The New York State Department of Financial Services imposed a financial penalty of $150 billion on the bank due to the bank on-boarding Jeffrey Epstein as a client in 2013. Deutsche Bank knew about Epstein’s “horrible criminal past” and still did nothing about the “regular, suspicious withdrawals,” the advisory body said. The transactions were also tied to the sexual abuse of minors. The convicted sex offender and billionaire took his own life while in prison in August of 2019.
7. In the last quarter of last year, the leaked FinCEN files suggest the bank’s top management knew about suspicious transactions amounting to over $1 trillion dollars. The ordeal is ongoing