The tenability of other prominent individuals within the government has been called out and questioned following this morning’s announcement that Gozo minister Justyne Caruana has resigned from Cabinet.
In a statement following Caruana’s resignation, civil society movement Repubblika questioned whether others like Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Attorney General Peter Grech could continue to hold their positions.
Caruana’s resignation was brought about following revelations on her husband’s friendly ties with Yorgen Fenech, a suspect in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Yesterday, The Times of Malta reported that Caruana’s husband, former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, had gone on holiday together with Fenech while the Caruana Galizia murder investigation was ongoing in September 2018.
In reaction to the reports yesterday, new Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that what was alleged was “not on”. He added that he had reached out to Acting Police Commissioner Carmelo Magri about the report. “I understand that there will be an investigation and the necessary decisions will be taken after. I believe all matters should be investigated,” he added.
Fenech was identified as a suspect as far back as May 2018 and Valletta was taken off the case in June 2018, following a constitutional case initiated by Caruana Galizia’s family. They reacted following the revelations on Valletta and Caruana’s resignation this morning, referring to links with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the country as a “mafia State”
— Corinne Vella (@Corinne_Vella) January 19, 2020
This morning, revelations also emerged that Europol experts found a video on Fenech’s phone showing Valletta “fooling around” in Fenech’s Rolls Royce.
The Special Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Pieter Omtzigt, also reacted on social media, saying “the rule of law issues are very deep in Malta”.
In de moordzaak op Malta ging de Plv. Korpschef op vakantie met de verdachte Mastermind van de moord op Daphne Caruana Galizia.
(Hij is ook getrouwd met een minister)
De rechtstaat problemen zitten heel diep op Malta https://t.co/vlhcUcA4Qv
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) January 19, 2020
Caruana, who was made minister for Gozo in 2017 was reappointed last week. She reportedly resigned yesterday evening.
“That is why prime minister Robert Abela’s appointment of Justyne Caruana (into Cabinet) last week was a bad decision, which tried to ignore the known facts,” said Repubblika, asking whether Abela knew about Valletta’s “corrupt act” when he appointed Caruana to his Cabinet.
This would not be the “last cabinet decision Abela will regret”, they said, calling out the position of minister Edward Scicluna as “particularly problematic”.
“The appointment of Edward Scicluna is particularly problematic for many reasons, including the connection with Silvio Valletta, whom Scicluna appointed on the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit Board which supposedly investigated Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi for money laundering,” they said. “Even though activists from civil society brought this conflict to his attention, Scicluna refused to remove Valletta,” they said.
EPP Secretary General Simon Busuttil also questioned Scicluna’s position. “There is no place for people who are compromised in a Cabinet of Ministers,” he wrote. “Justyne Caruana is not the only one. Others must go too, starting with the Finance Minister who is under investigation. Otherwise, our country can never regain its credibility”.
Scicluna is currently being investigated in a magisterial inquiry in relation to the controversial Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) deal on three of Malta’s public hospitals.
Repubblika went on to mention a list of people who the organisation believes Abela would “regret” reinstating, including Education Minister Owen Bonnici, Sandro Craus, Kenneth Camilleri, Glenn Bedingfield, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Robert Musumeci, Jason Micallef and Tony Zarb.
The NGO also questioned the role of Attorney General Peter Grech in this situation. They demanded that Grech needed to “say whether in the constitutional case (started by the Caruana Galizia family to remove Valletta from the murder investigation), Grech acted on instructions given to him or whether it was out of his own initiative to advise the Caruana Galizia family that they didn’t have the constitutional right to see that who investigates the murder of their mother isn’t married to a colleague of the suspects”.
“If Grech gave improper advice to the government, he has to assume responsibility and add this factor to the other reasons that have been accumulating for more than three years to resign immediately. If he doesn’t do that, parliament should do its job and remove him,” they said.
“Today we know that Caruana’s colleagues worked to disrupt the investigations, and till today they have succeeded in preventing action on all the persons responsible for the murder,” they continued. “Valletta used his power to show off with people who he was supposed to be bringing towards justice, all the while being sheltered by his wife, a government minister”.
Silvio Valletta is a senior police officer married to a govt MP. He led the investigation into my mum’s murder. When we filed a human rights case to have him removed, our govt called us enemies of the state. Now we find out he was holidaying with the man who murdered my mum. https://t.co/0IUeJ8eV9w
— Matthew Caruana Galizia (@mcaruanagalizia) January 19, 2020
Following the reports, Valletta said that he had not known that Fenech was under investigation when he travelled with him. He also said that the video inside Fenech’s car was taken after he had left the police force.
In Abela’s first parliamentary session as prime minister this morning, he accepted Caruana’s resignation from Cabinet and thanked her for her work.
Following the revelations yesterday, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia put pressure on Abela to take action, telling Abela to “put his money where is mouth is”. Nationalist MEP David Casa reiterated Delia’s demand. Meanwhile, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola reacting to a social media post by Caruana’s rival in Gozo, Anton Refalo, said: “I wonder if it has dawned on Anton Refalo yet why the disgraced Schembri and Muscat tandem had him removed as Gozo Minister”.