For the last several years, faced with many government scandals, it was easy to fall into a trap: to be so mesmerised by the quantity that none was properly understood. Today, the trap is different.
Now, it’s the reverse. There are so many shocking revelations emerging in the public inquiry into whether there is any State responsibility for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Elsewhere, the self-confessed middleman, Melvin Theuma, is throwing light on such a sinister plot. Each detail is like a squirt of black ink spreading on a white shirt.
The trap, now, is to become so fascinated by each revelation that the general emerging pattern of power is missed. It turns out all the claims of festering corruption at the heart of the State were right.
Caruana Galizia was so reliable that the financial intelligence agency (FIAU) used her as an open source. The leaked FIAU reports were also genuine. The finance minister’s suggestion that some were written on a false pretext has been debunked. The investigations dismissed as incomplete had nothing flimsy in them. There was further material to be added; but it was not expected to throw doubt on what was already written.
The Caruana Galizia brothers have also been vindicated. They were right to say at the start that fuel smuggling had nothing to do with their mother’s assassination. They were right to insist that the police investigation was not independent enough from those who may have been directly or indirectly responsible.
What has emerged is worse. The FIAU and the Police Economic Crimes Unit were starved of resources. In at least one instance, an agreement to increase the resources of the FIAU was reversed upon orders from Castille.
More chillingly, we know (from Theuma’s testimony and audio recordings) that mobile phone numbers were leaked to the assassins – by someone with a necessarily senior role in the investigation.
If Caruana Galizia, her sons and the FIAU were reliable, then it follows that State and government repeatedly misled the public.
To begin with, the sources were smeared. Caruana Galizia was dismissed as a hatemonger. Edward Scicluna, the minister under whom the FIAU fell, effectively suggested that the leaked reports were written by rogue agents.
The calls for a public inquiry into the assassination were resisted on the grounds that it would interfere with the criminal investigation. It turns out that the inquiry keeps asking questions about ongoing police investigations (not the assassination) but no one now objects that these investigations are being harmed.
The sons, too, were smeared, officially called quasi-enemies of the State when they demanded an independent police investigation. Now we can see their fears were well-founded. So was their reluctance to trust sensitive information in the hands of the Malta police. If secret information could find its way to Yorgen Fenech, who today would guarantee that the information in Caruana Galizia’s laptops would have been safe?
Yet, the State excoriated the sons. In Parliament, Robert Abela said that they detested Malta so much they would rather not see the investigation through. We saw banners springing up everywhere demanding the laptops. A social media campaign suggested Matthew Caruana Galizia may have been an accomplice to the assassination.
We now know that Joseph Muscat, then Prime Minister, was kept briefed. He lifted not one finger to stop the smearing of the sons. Indeed, what we know about the organisation of the smears makes it difficult to believe that he did not approve them.
Which brings us to the final element. Everything we’ve heard makes nonsense of the ‘few bad apples’ explanation of what we’re hearing about.
It’s one thing to say – as President George Vella declared in his Republic Day speech – that a small cabal had taken control of the levers of power. The profiteering off secret deals may have been for the few. But to engineer their schemes they needed a large cast of characters.
There were the useful idiots and the tricked loyal servants. Crucially, there was the network of crooked fixers occupying critical positions within the State: ready to facilitate the corrupt deals; legitimise the cover-ups and denial of information; prevent investigations and starve of resources those that had begun; smear the critics; and, when the most dangerous critic was blown up, sabotage the investigation.
This serpentine network, with a key base in Castille, was the real enemy of the State. Until all the heads are scotched, it still is.