What was it we were talking about the other day?

Published: February 3, 2009 at 3:48pm

Am I the only one who thinks there’s something odd in the social policy minister’s statement? Let’s say I were the social policy minister and learned through the newspapers that my fictitious brother had been picked up by the police in a drug-trafficking case. Would I speak to the prime minister to find out whether “the case involves me in any way”, or would I know that already? The way I see it, you can’t get embroiled in drug-trafficking, even by your own brother, in your sleep and without your knowledge.

That’s why I found his statement strange. It’s not the prime minister who should be reassuring the minister that he isn’t involved in his brother’s alleged dealings, but Dalli who should be reassuring the prime minister that he’s clean and considers his brother to be a pariah. I would have said this:

The case involves my brother but it does not involve me. I have nothing to do with it whatsoever, and dissociate myself most vehemently from my brother’s alleged conduct. I have spoken to the prime minister to reassure him of this.

Whatever the situation, it’s not looking good. I hope John Dalli isn’t going to bury his head in the sand about this one. He can scream and wail but the fact remains that this is one hell of a mess that’s going to taint the government of which he forms part even when it is at one of its weakest points. No, we’re not our brothers’ keepers, but when our brothers are alleged drug-dealers and people with previous convictions (the man is noted down as a relapser) and we’re cabinet ministers, then we’ve got to disown those black-sheep brothers or suffer the consequences of negative public perception. It’s a tough choice, but it’s got to be done. I have this nagging feeling that Dalli is going to turn out to be this government’s Achilles heel. The Labour Party can go to town on this one, and who can blame it?

Drug-dealing depends on protection and networks, and even if the minister never sees his brother, never speaks to him, or has anything whatsoever to do with him, people are going to be left with the perception that this man has been getting away with rather too much for too long and that it was just ‘cikka’ he happened to be busted along with some other people in such a way that prosecution couldn’t be avoided, especially not when half of Malta was gossiping about it.

I’m afraid the minister is just not credible when he says that he learned about his brother’s involvement through the newspapers. What -through my column in The Malta Independent on Sunday, given that I was the only one who wrote about it, and then without mentioning him by name? I find that hard to believe. If I had heard of Sebastian Dalli being taken in for questioning about this drug bust literally within hours of it happening, then I imagine his brother, who is far better connected than I am, especially to the Malta-Libya business networks (which is how I heard) got the news just as I did, if not even before I did. How can it possibly be that I knew something about his brother days before he did (and there was a time-lag of days between my hearing the news and my column being published)? If I knew, then rest assured that hundreds of others did, too.

I would like to think, too, that when and if the police pick up in a drug-dealing investigation the brother of a minister of the state, the police commissioner will pick up the telephone and inform the prime minister immediately. If it didn’t happen in this case, it would be interesting to know why not. I can’t help thinking that the prime minister didn’t find out about the case, as his minister claims he did, through reading my newspaper column. I would think that he knew about it before that, and if he knew, then I would like to think that he summoned his minister for a good grilling.

If the prime minister and his minister think that these two brief and barely credible lines by the minister are going to lead to the public breathing a sigh of relief and saying “Oh, that’s all right then”, they are much mistaken. This one is going to grow and grow, unless the prime minister acts immediately to nip it in the bud, and his minister treats people with a little more respect instead of brushing them off with this rubbish.

The Times, Tuesday, 3rd February 2009 – 15:12CET

Sebastian Dalli accused of association to traffic cannabis

Sebastian Dalli, 52, of Qormi was this afternoon accused in court of association to traffic cannabis on December 27 last year. He pleaded not guilty and was remanded in custody. His arraignment was the fifth to be made after a police operation at Miġra l-Ferħa on December 27 when what was thought to be a consignment of cannabis was intercepted as it was being brought ashore on a dinghy.

Another four men have so far been charged with conspiring to import 30 kilogrammes of cannabis. The police had said in December after the operation that they arrested eight people after intercepting the consignment.

Testimony in court revealed last month that what was thought to be cannabis was actually soap. Mr Dalli was today also accused of the unlawful possession of a firearm, violating police bail, and relapsing.

The court, after taking into consideration the seriousness of the case and the fact that Mr Dalli had in the past absconded police bail and travelled to Libya, decided to remand Mr Dalli in custody.


Social Policy Minister John Dalli said he had been informed about his brother’s arraignment. “I first learnt about the case from the newspapers some days ago and immediately spoke to the Prime Minister, who confirmed that the case does not involve me in any manner,” the minister said.

34 Comments Comment

  1. Antoine G says:

    Re the statements you refer to, one would have to read them in their original language because I suspect that the statement is a literal translation from Maltese and could be misinterpreted.

    Re the Minister, he is in a very awkward position especially since he is responsible for drug prevention. It’s a pity because I believe John Dalli is one of the best Ministers in the present cabinet.

    [Daphne – As the minister responsible for drug control, his position would not have been awkward but untenable. As far as I can make out, though, the minister responsible for the police is Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, and not John Dalli.]

  2. Graham C. says:

    Well, it’s quite common for brothers to hate each other and be different. I’m pretty sure Dalli knew what his brother was into, but what could he do? File a report against him and at the same time make himself vulnerable? He couldn’t do anything and admitting to knowing of his brothers dealing politically is suicidal.

    John Dalli’s best bet was to try bury it. After all wouldn’t you do the same thing…I’d try bury it and probably go as far as to bury him 6 feet under, I mean what a crappy brother.

    [Daphne – No, I wouldn’t.]

  3. Antoine G says:

    He is the Minister responsible for drug prevention and also treatment of drug addiction through a number of agencies which form part of his portfolio: Appogg, Sedqa, etc.

  4. Albert Farrugia says:

    Seems like its Dalligate Mk II. You know, I was of course disappointed, like the majority of the electorate, with the PN’s winning the government. But now it seems that its victory is going to bring it much worse pain than a simple election defeat!
    Now we are hearing of “leaks” coming directly from the PN Parliametary Group, backbenchers voicing “dissent”, at least two cabinet members having relatives on the wrong side of the law, open discussion (but not in its official organs) about what type of party the PN is.
    Seems like a lesson in some humility is not long in coming!

  5. amrio says:

    But Daphne, isn’t this case similar to the case where that Minister from Gozo was involved (or actually his brothers were)?

    If I recall correctly, at the time you said that the Minister cannot be judged by his brothers’ doing, and I agree and think that the same holds in this case.

    [Daphne – No. Let me just repeat something from my Sunday article on this business. The two situations are quite different. Nobody is ever going to suspect Chris Said of involvement in the organisation of gang rapes of teenage girls. But drug-trafficking is another matter. Drug-trafficking is organised crime. It depends networks of protection and connections, without which it cannot survive. It also depends on the collusion of those who buy, but that’s another matter. The brother of a minister of state is being prosecuted for drug-dealing in a case which many think is just the tip of the iceberg. What is the public supposed to believe? A minister with a drug-dealing brother has to make one of two choices: to publicly disown him and stick to a decision to have no contact with him, and to make sure everyone knows what he thinks of him, or to step down. There is no halfway house called ‘heqq, he’s my brother, x’taghmel, hu?’ I think it is extremely arrogant to put your own political career before the interests of the government you are serving, or to expect the public to tolerate a situation in which a senior minister has a brother who smuggles and trafficks. We’ve been here before, for heaven’s sake.]

  6. Fluke says:

    This is what the maltarightnow.com is reported as being said by John Dalli.
    “Intant, fi stqarrija l-Ministru John Dalli qal li sema’ bl-akkuża kontra ħuh. Fl-istqarrija, hu qal li sar jaf bil-każ relattiv mill-gazzetti xi jiem ilu, u mmedjatament kellem lill-Prim Ministru, li min-naħa tiegħu kkonferma li dan ma jinvolvi lilu bl-ebda mod.”

  7. Anttoine Vella says:

    The report on The Times is a faithful translation of the minister’s statement which is very terse: “Jien infurmat illi llum ħareġ att ta’ akkuża kontra ħija. Jien sirt naf bil-każ mill-gazzetti xi jiem ilu u immedjatament kellimt lill-Prim Ministru, li minn naħa tiegħu ikkonferma li dan ma jinvolvi lili bl-ebda mod.” (from the DOI website).

    I do not think anybody suspects the minister of being involved (well, apart from PL’s spinners but they don’t count in this case) and the handling of this affair is more a question of public relations for him. I might be reading too much between the lines but saying that the PM ‘confirms’ the non-involvement means that the minister told him as much and the PM agreed.

    Albert Farrugia
    “…I was of course disappointed, like the majority of the electorate, with the PN’s winning the government. ”

    The majority? Really? You are obviously counting AD votes but are you saying that AD would have been happier if the MLP got elected?”

  8. F Chircop says:

    The PN government has been too long in power and is now riddled with corruption.

  9. Anna says:

    As they say, you get to choose your friends but not your family. However in this case Minister Dalli would do well to disassociate himself once and for all from his notorious brother and should publicly state that he has nothing to do with his brother’s past, present and future shenanigans, if they can be called that. In the bad old days, you wouldn’t dream of a Minister’s brother being arrested and brought before the courts because a Minister’s family and friends were automatically ‘protected’. The fact that Bastjan Dalli has been arrested yet again, just like any common criminal, is proof enough that he is not being protected by anyone, let alone by his Minister brother, so that is to John Dalli’s merit. But the fact remains that these siblings are too close for comfort and John Dalli should clear the air with the public. Just for the record, Chris Said had immediately come out with a public statement disassociating himself from his brothers, and the feeling I got was that people in general respected him for doing the right thing.

  10. Lino Cert says:

    @Antoine G

    “It’s a pity because I believe John Dalli is one of the best Ministers in the present cabinet.”

    I don’t share your high opinion of John Dalli. Just look at the way John Dalli dealt with the recent interviewers, Vanessa McDonald of di-ve and the guy of Dissett. He showed his true colours then, intimidating and evading his interviewers when they asked tricky questions. John Dalli is a bad apple and ministers like him, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and also certain bankbenchers like JPO may ultimately seal the fate of PN in the next election. why take the risk? Cut the cancerous bits out before they metastasise. Even if theirs is just a perception, it is this same perception that some people will base their vote on come election time.

    [Daphne – What has Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici done to upset you?]

  11. A.J. Anastasi says:

    Daphne: “Traffics” – (k)just an extra finger strike on the keyboard!

  12. Tony Pace says:

    Daphne, a lot of people cannot stand you (I hear you, tough !) and many think you’re the best thing since sliced bread. However, one thing we can all agree on is that you are the gutsiest lady around. Actually you must probably make the so-called investigative journalists squirm for not coming within a whiff of the courage of your convictions. The above article is truly excellent, a real eye-opener and sadly exposes the disdain that the Minister has for our intelligence. As they say, too little too late. Sorry Minister, pull the other one….

  13. Manuel says:

    I disagree that the PL will try to eke out political mileage out of this one. Bastjan Dalli has been in all sorts of scrapes before, and the only murmurs emanating from the PL at the time concerned the possible involvement of his brother with the failure of the police to arraign him in the Cana-comes-to-Malta case. The PL never tried to imply that John Dalli himself was in any way directly or indirectly involved in actual wrong-doing.

    [Daphne – Clearly, you weren’t standing where I was in 1996.]

  14. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Meanwhile, away from the ranch:


  15. Albert Farrugia says:

    @Antoine Vella
    If you take a look at last year’s election result, you will know what I mean. Apart from that, a PN electoral spot had reminded electors that only a vote for the PN would help the party towards victory. A vote to any other party, including AD, would help the MLP. So, yes, the majority of those who voted were disappointed with the result.

  16. Leo Said says:

    quote Lino Cert: “Cut the cancerous bits out before they metastasise”.

    Doctor Lino Cert, cancer has the potential to disseminate invisible micrometastases (latent metastases if you wish). Your professional experience may tell you that it could not be enough to “cut the cancerous bits out”. Adjuvant therapy in the form of remarks on blogs, in fora and per other media may well be necessary. And still, despite all measures, one can get a cancerous recurrence.

  17. mat555 says:

    Ilma isir whiskey u droga isir sapun! Dan imissna nqabzuh il kju! SANTO SUBITO!

  18. Andrea says:

    @HIV+ Muppet

    How about another two Muppets:
    The Dalli brothers as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, you can’t have one without the other.


  19. Darren says:

    This brings back memories; I used to watch Sesame Street and the Muppet Show as a kid. I am surprised they are still in production.

  20. Lino Cert says:

    @Daphne – What has Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici done to upset you?

    Detention of immigrant children in any form is a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child . These rights include rights of freedom, to a normal social life and to education. Detention of a child interferes with all of these rights. This is true whether it is an unaccompanied child or a child who is made subject to the detention of the parents. There is also a high risk of child abuse in these detention camps, even if kept for only short periods of time, and especially so in our camps in Malta which are overpopulated and undersupervised. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici is responsible for the care of these children, irrespective if they are the children of maltese citizens or the children of illegal immigrants. The children themselves have done no wrong and have basic rights which must be respected, and theerefor detaining these children unnecdessarily is a breach of Children’s rights and is criminal.

    [Daphne – I hardly think he is personally detaining immigrant children. If you knew more about him, you would know that this isn’t possible.]

  21. Ivan Falzon says:

    As always, great! Excellent, Daphne. You always say it as it is.

  22. Gerald says:

    The only honourable way out for Dalli (the Minister) is to offer his resignation. Then it’s up to the PM to accept it or not. As you correctly imply in your analysis, the scandal is going to hurt the government anyway, so better to do the honourable thing and get it over and done with.

  23. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Why not have a homeless, alcoholic Muppet then? Or an ugly, overweight, lonely, depressed Muppet?

  24. Daphne Caruana Galizia says:

    Turns out Sebastian Dalli did rush off to Libya after being interrogated by the police, as I was reliably informed at the time – even though he was bound over to let the police know of his movements. And that’s he was arraigned in court that much longer after the other men allegedly involved in the same case.

  25. J.L.B. Matekoni says:

    Daphne – excuse my ignorance but if the only police evidence is bars of soap how can they nail Bastjan Dalli? – never mind his previous exploits – although admittedly it is still highly embarrassing for the Minister. This has parallels with the Steve Marsden case where the man got 25 years for importing non-illegal substances even though he may have thought he was importing ecstasy.

    [Daphne – It also has parallels with the Godfrey Ellul case: he imported cocaine but was convicted for smuggling emeralds, because he claimed that this is what he thought he was doing. His character witness in court, who said that Ellul would never do such a vile thing as import cocaine? Noel Arrigo, then a judge already.]

  26. J.L.B. Matekoni says:

    PS. I thought people were tried and judged on what they committed and not on what their intentions actually were. I am honestly confused.

    [Daphne – Of course you can be prosecuted and convicted for your intentions. Conspiracy to commit a crime is just that. You can be prosecuted for plotting to rob a bank, prosecuted for planning a murder, prosecuted for organising a terrorist attack – even if all your plans fall through.]

  27. John Schembri says:

    @ Daphne:Minister Dalli is the minister responsible for medicinals (legal drugs). The Commissioner of Police is responsible for the fight against illicit drugs. He falls under the responsibility of Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. Minister Dalli has another brother who is a priest. What should Dun Gorg do? Should he be investigated? Should he leave the church? Should we put Dun Gorg on one side of the balance, Bastjan on the other and Minister John in the middle and see which way the balance tips? We are not our brother’s keepers. We hardly know what our 19 year old ‘children’ are up too! I would have agreed with you if you stated that a minister’s brother tries to influence people by pretending that he has friends in high places.

    [Daphne – The answer to your quandary lies in your last sentence. It doesn’t take a gigantic leap of the imagination to realise that this is precisely how he sells himself, even if without his brother’s knowledge – especially, I would imagine, in Libya.]

  28. Mario P says:

    A muppet with HIV? I can’t wait for the suicide bommber Muppet. In the meantime, Animal remains my fave – you can see him on YouTube.

  29. Andrea says:

    @Mario P

    Do you know Achmed, the Dead Terrorist?
    Similar to a Muppet:


  30. Manuel says:

    Nary a word from the PL about John Dalli in the context of his brother’s latest alleged criminal activity, so far. Credit where it is due?

    [Daphne – Not at all. Labour is pants as always. Here am I, doing Labour’s job and pointing out the very things that Joseph Muscat should be saying, while he crusades with Astrid Vella against an underground museum. Labour should speak now or forever hold its peace. But I think that Labour is holding its peace now so as to have greater ammunition later, because in a campaign called Direzzjoni Success it’s not the present problem of having a minister with an allegedly drug-trafficking brother that concerns the party, but how this information can be used in an electoral campaign.]

  31. John Schembri says:

    “Here am I, doing Labour’s job”.
    Daphne , you’re doing no one’s job except yours. You think you are defusing a big bomb, or exploding a bomb prematurely. I cannot understand your way of thinking. Are you really expecting John Dalli to make a press statement stating that he doesn’t have anything to do with his brother? And if he does that, would we be ‘satisfied’? I think we will be in the same position we are now. Labour are being very prudent on this issue, and I don’t think they will gain votes with mud-slinging. We know that it always backfired.
    Would someone vote for Sharon, instead for Simon just because John is Bastjan’s brother?

    [Daphne – John, I can’t understand your way of thinking, either, so that makes two of us. Labour is not being prudent. Labour is storing up ammunition for use at a more opportune moment, rather than wasting it now. It is wholly incorrect to say that ‘mud-slinging’ – silly term – ‘always backfired’. Quite the contrary, it always worked for Labour. The ‘mud-slinging’ of 1996 was phenomenally successful when coupled with Vince Farrugia’s anti-VAT hysterics, and the ‘mud-slinging’ of 2008 did a pretty good job of eroding the Nationalist Party’s voter-base, too. ‘Mud-slinging’ doesn’t work for those who are defending their position, and so Labour was at a loss in 1998. And 2003 was a single-issue election. And no, in this case I think Labour is being irresponsible in not raising the issue in a direct way, which means without ‘mud-slinging’ or ulterior motives. If you’re happy living in a country where the non-estranged brother of a cabinet minister is hauled up for drug trafficking and the cabinet minister pretends he doesn’t know anything about it, even though both brothers do lots of business in Libya and the cabinet minister brother runs a Portomaso office especially for doing business with Libya, then fine. I’m not at all happy with the situation myself. Of course, you can argue that it would be much worse if he weren’t hauled up before the courts because that would mean he was being protected, but let me just wonder aloud about long these shenanigans have been going on, and what sort of relationship do the two have that the allegedly criminal brother feels he can behave like this even though his brother is a long-time cabinet minister. I say ‘even though’ when what I really want to say is ‘because’, given that this is how it’s coming across to people, and that’s just the problem. You might be naive about drug-trafficking. I’m not.]

  32. Mario P says:

    @ Andrea – achmed is not even close to the Muppets. Funny though

  33. John Schembri says:

    Sorry Daphne, but you know more than the average citizen: now I understand the worrying situation. I am not being sarcastic.

Leave a Comment