In the news: Mrs Muscat and her dress designer cheat and exploit vulnerable prisoners

Published: March 30, 2016 at 9:55am

There’s an excellent story in the Times of Malta today, though the subject-matter is truly appalling. The Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs Muscat, and her dress designer, Mary Grace Pisani – who is responsible for those ghastly outfits Mrs Muscat wears on special occasions – have been cheating and exploiting prisoners who they engaged to work on special sewing projects.

They haven’t paid them a red cent, not even for the 400 costumes which it turns out now that the prisoners sewed for all those show-off events and ‘spettakli’ during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015.

The project was launched with much fanfare two years ago. This immediately rang alarm-bells for me. I found it shocking that the Prime Minister’s wife would use her influence to acquire cheap and exploitative labour at the prisons for her friend, who supplies her with free dresses, and who wants that cheap and exploitative labour for the soft furnishings business (curtains and so on) which is her main source of income.

I had written about it at the time, noting also that Mary Grace Pisani wasn’t just getting exploitative prison labour for her business, but also free sewing-machines because her friend Mrs Muscat had used funds from the Marigold Foundation to buy some, passing them off as charity for the prisoners.

More recently – when Mrs Muscat’s bad outfits were making the news in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – I had written about Mary Grace Pisani and her relationship with Mrs Muscat.

Mrs Muscat and her dress designer are quite clearly using the Leisure Clothing Ltd (the Chinese-government-owned factory in Marsa which exploits Chinese and North Korean indentured labourers on Maltese soil to make clothing) business model to exploit vulnerable prisoners at the state jail in Corradino. I quote the Times of Malta today:

A female prisoner who spoke to the Times of Malta said that 14 inmates are owed over €16,000 for work they have carried out since last June. Apart from the fact that the inmates have not been paid, their work is valued at well under normal market prices.

The inmate said they were supposed to receive €3 per metre for sewing the curtains. She also said that contrary to industry standards, the measurement is taken by the width of the material rather than the length.

Some of their earnings were supposed to be put aside to give to inmates when they leave prison, with the remainder being used for their daily needs in prison.

Two inmates have since been released and not yet received a cent of the money owed.

The inmates have been asking Ms Pisani for the money she owes them for months but have been brushed off.

“I have 92 cents left in my prison account. How can I possibly live on that and buy things from the exorbitantly priced prison canteen?

“They treat us like slaves, expecting us to sew all these costumes and curtains to very tight deadlines.

“Whenever we ask Ms Pisani why she has not paid us, she always comes up with excuses. I have had to keep asking my family to deposit money into my prison account, though they cannot understand why I need it when I am doing all this work.

“I sometimes get up at 4am to start working on the costumes and curtains and do not stop until 7pm. Then they treat us like this,” the inmate said.

These people are not socialists. They are mercenary pigs, hogs at the trough, cheating and exploiting even society’s most vulnerable, with the wife of Malta’s most powerful man shockingly using her influence to gain what is effectively slave labour for the woman who makes her dresses.

I hate to say it (not really, I don’t), but they do these things only because they’re as common as muck, and corrupt with it.


prison inmates