UPDATED/Muscat’s first act as Prime Minister: going to Betsson

Published: June 5, 2017 at 8:37pm

There has been talk for the past few weeks that Betsson, the remote gaming company which employs more than a thousand people here in Malta, took a decision to pull out of the country if Muscat’s party is re-elected to government.

This is on the basis that a remote gaming company cannot operate in a jurisdiction where the behaviour of politicians in government, and the malfunctioning of institutions, have caused reputational damage that has in turn drawn the attention of banks in other jurisdictions to Malta as a potential money-laundering risk.

Muscat was sworn in as Prime Minister today. A few hours later, I received information from a source at Betsson that Muscat will be visiting the company’s offices at 10am tomorrow, for a meeting with its most senior officials, seeking to address their concerns and persuade them against pulling out.

It is a private visit and the press have not been informed, let alone invited. It should be noted that the Prime Minister is visiting the company executives in their offices, rather than asking them to visit him in his as would be the usual protocol, which already indicates where the balance of power has shifted.

Betsson’s offices are closed at this hour and nobody could be found to comment. Meanwhile, I have messaged the head of government communications, Kurt Farrugia, to ask: “What is the purpose of the Prime Minister’s visit (without press) to Betsson tomorrow at 10am?”

I will let you know if I received a reply. The head of government communications took the time, yesterday afternoon, to send me – because I was apparently the main thing on his mind in the midst of news of electoral victory – insulting and highly unethical WhatsApp messages (bear in mind that we are now living in the Third World). So he should now do his job and take the time to reply to a work-related question.

UPDATED: The head of government communications has replied to say that the Prime Minister’s visit to Betsson is now open to the media. He added: “Once again I thank you for the contribution to our electoral campaign. We are indebted.”

I can’t imagine any head of communications working for Prime Ministers Fenech Adami or Gonzi talking to a journalist that way. He would have been fired immediately, even if the journalist were actually a Super One propagandist.

So I replied: “During the electoral campaign, you lost thousands of votes off your projected 50,000 majority, which is why you were still trying to buy them back with jobs, promotions, payments and contracts until close of business on the eve of polling day.”