Daphne’s murder showed danger of Maltese political corruption – new US Ambassador
27.10.2022 13:10 – Christoph Schwaiger

The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia showed the danger of corruption in Maltese politics and society, the new US Ambassador to Malta said in her statement to the US’s Foreign Relations Committee as she was being considered for the role.

Today, the 27th of October, Constance Milstein presented her credentials to Malta’s President George Vella. She will be the first US ambassador to Malta in four years since Ambassador Kathleen Hill in 2018.

While her statements about rule of law and democracy are welcome news, unfortunately, Milstein was also at the centre of a scandal in the US. It happened some 20 years ago, but she was fined $5,000. More on this below.

Back in May 2022, Milstein delivered a statement to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee while she was being nominated for the role of Ambassador to Malta.

In her statement, she described Daphne Caruana Galizia as “an important Maltese investigative journalist”. She vowed to “champion rule of law efforts and an open and free press” if she were to be given the role. These statements will surely be welcomed by the hundreds of people in Malta and around the world who to this day continue to seek full justice in Caruana Galizia’s case. They continue to do so despite the Maltese Government’s best efforts to dissuade them from their mission.

Milstein said that one of her priorities will be to tackle corruption and impunity.

What else did Milstein say?

Milstein also mentioned rule of law reforms regarding anti-money laundering and the countering of the financing of terrorism. She had said that Malta needed a stronger financial regulatory environment.

“If confirmed, I would work with Malta to make these reforms sustainable for the long term,” she said.

Milstein considers herself to be an advocate for fairness, justice, and democracy. If she sticks true to her cause, she will prove to be a great asset to Malta. US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave her a glowing recommendation during her nomination hearing.

Milstein fined $5,000

During her hearing she was also asked by Senator Barrosso about the Milwaukee ‘smokes-for-votes scandal’. The Guardian had reported that she “was caught on video handing out cigarettes to homeless men in Milwaukee in return for votes in favour of Al Gore”. In November 2000, The New York Post reported that Connie Milstein faced possible bribery charges in relation to the incident.

In December 2021, New York Times national political reporter Shane Goldmacher tweeted about her nomination and about the “smokes for votes episode”.

Politifact also covered the incident. It said: “In May 2001, Milstein agreed to pay $5,000 in a civil forfeiture, a legal term that admitted no guilt and closed the case.”

It also said: “Nonetheless, the campaign for Al Gore distanced itself from Milstein and released a statement right after the event happened saying her efforts were “not the kind of help we ask for and it’s the kind of help we flat out reject.”

In her hearing, Milstein said this incident happened more than 20 years ago. She said she doesn’t recall all the information about the case. She said she would provide the committee with a written response about the case.

What else was Milstein asked in her hearing?

She was asked about Malta’s golden passports scheme which benefits Russian oligarchs. Milstein said it is a problem in Malta and said that the Maltese government “is aware of the situation” and has upped their vetting process of applicants.

She was told that Malta is a valuable partner in terms of the refugee situation and was told that NGOs on the island have also been helpful in this regard.

She was also asked about Russian influence in Malta. Milstein said it is an issue in Malta and referred once more to the vetting process of the golden passports that she wants to support.

She was also asked about money laundering in Malta. Milstein said she looks forward to working with Malta to get it removed from the FATF greylist. Malta was eventually moved off this list.