Last year, when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) began publishing its findings of a large pool of papers which allegedly ‘unearthed’ a global financial scandal involving several countries, the only European Union country which found itself embroiled in the controversy was Malta.
Panama Papers – as it was called – named Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi as being involved in the ‘dubious financial transactions’ overseas. The minister, however, denied all the allegations. This did not stop the constant bombardment of questions related to the leak whenever Mizzi made a public appearance.
On 18 June 2018, however, Mizzi won his first small battle after a court in Malta condemned Helena Grech, a former journalist, to pay €2,000 for writing defamatory content against Mizzi. The report in question had mentioned that Konrad Mizzi did not disclose that he was a politician while dealing with Mossack Fonseca.
On the other hand, Mizzi asserted that he had communicated his connection with politics with the Panamanian firm but this fact was overlooked. This court ruling has exonerated Mizzi of one of the accusations that have been levelled against him.
Yet another court ruling came out in favour of Mizzi this year. This time, it was he who was charged of defamation by former TN minister Tonio Fenech. The case was filed after Mizzi claimed in one of his interviews in 2014 that Fenech had been involved in an energy theft during installation of smart meters.
The court, while pronouncing the verdict, stated that the Mizzi’s criticism was ‘based on facts which were substantially true’. The court judgements come at a time when Konrad Mizzi has been facing a virulent malicious campaign against him from the opposition parties.
Amidst all the commotion, the voices of appreciation for his work have been diluted. Recently, in a column written for Times of Malta, president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, Tony Zahra, commented that Konrad Mizzi was “leading a silent revolution which, if pursued, will contribute to the achievement of a more sustainable sector, setting Malta as a leader in best practices in the Mediterranean.”
Zahra, in her article, mentioned that for the first time in years Malta was finally seeing a the surge in number of tourists which was bringing business and creating wealth while also discussing the need for sustainable practices in tourism.
A seasoned politician, Mizzi has also served as the Minister of Energy and Health before he was given the Tourism Portfolio. He is credited with reforms in Malta’s energy sector which have were targeted towards bringing down the energy prices and also reducing the dependency on fuel oil.
Malta also received its first floating storage unit (FSU) in 2017 which supplies liquified natural gas to a station which powers 400 MW power station during Mizzi’s tenure as Energy Minister. However, all this seems to be a thing of the past as the minister continues to field ‘uncomfortable’ questions from all quarters. Meanwhile, the court rulings have brought some relief for Konrad Mizzi for the time being.