Updated to include Repubblika’s statement
The close ties between suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech and former assistant commissioner Silvio Valletta emerged in court today as a police officer testified that Valletta had told him to hold an interrogation at the murder suspect’s Portomaso apartment instead of the police headquarters.
Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla, who is also head of the Economic Crimes Unit, testified before a public board of inquiry that he wanted to speak to Fenech, who is charged with ordering the death of journalist Caruana Galizia, after a media report named him as the owner of 17 Black.
This took place before November 2018 and, as he was on his way to his scheduled meeting at Portomaso, Valletta – who was his superior – called him and told him Fenech was unwell and to cancel.
Valletta’s close relationship with Fenech led to the resignation of his wife Justyne Caruana from the post of Gozo minister. The two men had gone on holiday in September 2018 while the murder investigation was still ongoing.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who is representing the Caruana Galizia family, asked Abdilla why he chose to speak to Fenech at his apartment instead of calling him in for questioning at the police headquarters.
“He wasn’t a person of interest,” Abdilla told the court. Azzopardi put his head in his hands in disbelief.
His reply provoked the ire of the three Judges who reminded him that all are equal before the law. “The police always bring the person to the depot to be questioned. He goes, not you!”Judge Michael Mallia told Abdilla.
Abdilla said he did not ask how Valletta knew that Fenech was unwell or that the two men were friends.
The unhealthy relationship between top Police officers and the men suspected of some of the worst crimes #Malta has seen in a generation continues to be shockingly laid bare.
Meanwhile disgraced Keith Schembri remains free to come and go as he pleases. Protected. Still. https://t.co/VpEE02BGHr
— Roberta Metsola MEP (@RobertaMetsola) March 13, 2020
Azzopardi also asked him whether he ever communicated with former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Abdilla admitted he met him twice after the stories about Egrant emerged.
Schembri had called him and Abdilla had suggested that he consult a lawyer about his mention in the Egrant stories.
The Board, investigating whether the 2017 assassination of Caruana Galizia could have been prevented, asked Abdilla about the leaked reports from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and Ali Sadr, owner of now-defunct Pilatus Bank, who is on trial in the United States.
Judge Joseph Said Pullicino asked about the infamous briefcase that Sadr was seen carrying out of the bank and Abdilla said that no sensitive documents had been taken out of the bank because they had searched it.
Azzopardi asked Abdilla whether the search was done that same night. No, Abdilla said, it took place the day after.
Repubblika calls for Abdilla’s resignation
Following Abdilla’s testimony in court, civil society organisation Repubblika called for his resignation. The corruption, inefficiency and the ties between those leading the police force and criminals have been emerging for months.
“It was clear in court that Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla was part of this,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Abdilla failed to act on corruption cases he had a duty to investigate, whether due to incompetence, carelessness or bad intentions. He permitted the impunity that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia,” Repubblika added.
After she was killed, Abdilla helped the criminals escape justice. This makes Abdilla as responsible as Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and others who are yet to be held accountable for their actions. For these reasons, Repubblika insisted, “Abdilla must be removed from the police force with immediate effect”.