So did the hero of the urban underclass die a pauper?
Published: August 28, 2012 at 5:02am
This is part of my column in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 26 August.
Now that all the fun, games and circuses of the funeral of the year are over, it’s time for the press to turn its attention to some of the real stories.
The first thing the newspapers should do is follow the British practice of reporting on the last will and testament of the deceased former prime minister.
Wills are public deeds in Malta as they are in Britain, and anyone can order a copy. You certainly don’t have to be a journalist. The difference is that newspapers have a duty to investigate this kind of thing.
The system is as follows.
You first have to get Dominic Mintoff’s death certificate from the Public Registry (Civil Status Section at the Evans Building, Valletta). All you have to do is turn up and give his name and date of death, and request a copy. Anyone can do this, but you might be asked to show your identity card.
If the person behind the desk gets difficult, state your rights and remind them that these are public documents and that you are not asking for anything that the law does not permit you to have.
It usually takes the Public Registry around three weeks to register a death, and you won’t be able to get the death certificate until then, but in Mintoff’s case it might be done sooner.
His heirs might want his death certificate immediately, so as to hurry up the processing of their inheritance. And that particular pig has always been the most equal one of all.
You will be given a copy of the death certificate over the counter. If they tell you to return later, say that you would like it at once, please, and that you will wait right there.
Take this death certificate and walk to the Public Registry (Searches Dept) in West Street, and order a search for Dom Mintoff’s last will and testament. This takes about five days, and you will be sent a list of the wills Mintoff made.
You then take this list to the Notary to Government (M. A. Vassalli Street, Valletta) and order the most recent will on the list, which is generally the valid one if it cancels out all previous wills. Sometimes, the most recent will is an additional one, and does not cancel out the previous. You will either be given a copy of this will immediately or have to wait up to three days. In this case, the wait is legitimately required and is not a harassment tactic.
Of course, the will might not say much that is of interest. It might simply say that he leaves all his holdings to his daughters/the dogs/cats/horses without specifying what those holdings are. This is what people in Malta usually do.
The heirs then use their notary to run a search among the banks in Malta. It is obviously more difficult to track down holdings overseas, and these tend to be specified in wills unless the heirs are informed beforehand of what there is and where.
Whatever the case, Mintoff’s will is of public interest and should, consequently, be published in the press. This is a man who, as prime minister, persecuted others for their holdings but never revealed his own, which were rumoured to be considerable. He began making large sums of money at the outset of his career, with his work on the rebuilding of Malta under the War Damage Commission.
His earnings, like those of his ministers, were always concealed while he lived the life of a miser and forced his wife into abject penury, to the point where she became dependent on the charity of her friends.
We know that he acquired, a few years ago, around one million euros as compensation for pain and suffering caused by the building of the Delimara power station next to his summer house. We also know that he acquired $250,000 from Gaddafi as his special human rights prize awardee.
But beyond that, any other holdings should be questioned, given that Mintoff ceased professional practice as an architect to concentrate on running the Labour Party into the ground and then doing the same with the country. So on paper and officially, all he had was his documented salary and unearned income from investments made with earlier income.
At least one of the obituaries in the international press alluded to his concealed riches, but strangely enough, in Malta it is not considered to be the public’s business.
Of course, if Eddie Fenech Adami had exploited his position as party leader and prime minister to strike deals for himself and acquire large amounts of money, the press would be crawling all over the story. But where Mintoff is concerned, people still get fearful.
As I said, that particular pig has always been the most equal pig of all, even in death.