‘Malta needs an umbrella investigation into corruption and journalist’s murder’

Malta needs an umbrella investigation that combines strengths across States and disciplines to effectively investigate corruption and its links to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, her son told The Shift, listing companies in the midst of scandals as “weapons used in the same crime of corruption that led to the assassination”.

Such an investigation can only be conducted in the framework of a Joint Investigation Team, Matthew Caruana Galizia said after the government shot down a request by nine international press freedom and human rights organisations.

The Maltese government said in Parliament this week that there was no need to ask Europol to set up a Joint Investigation Team to look into Caruana Galizia’s assassination, saying collaboration with the European law enforcement agency has been ongoing from the start. Yet, as Matthew Caruana Galizia pointed out, the efforts are not the same.

“Employees of Europol in Malta have no judicial authority whatsoever, because Europol is a political and bureaucratic organisation and not a police force, even though our government is trying to make it seem as though it’s some kind of European FBI,” Caruana Galizia told The Shift.

“Malta, and Europe, needs an umbrella investigation, with powers to leap across jurisdictions. That umbrella investigation can only be conducted in the framework of a Joint Investigation Team, with the meaningful collaboration of serious police forces in other jurisdictions that were used by the criminals involved,” he added.

Caruana Galizia was assassinated by a car bomb on 16 October 2017, a few metres away from her home. Links to the assassination reach to the highest corridors of power, leading to the resignation of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and former Minister Konrad Mizzi after two months of protests.

There are close to a dozen magisterial inquiries into individual pieces of what is the same grand corruption and kickback scheme that led directly to my mother’s assassination.

The Maltese government has been criticised for political interference in the investigation.

Europol is the only agency through which a Joint Investigation Team can be set up. Involvement in the investigation in Malta and facilitating a Joint Investigation Team are complementary, not mutually exclusive.

A Joint Investigation Team is an international cooperation tool based on an agreement between competent authorities – both judicial and law enforcement – of two or more States – established for a limited duration and for a specific purpose, to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of the involved States.

The call for a Joint Investigation Team was made by nine international press freedom and human rights organisations.

Caruana Galizia pointed out Europol employees have no automatic right to conduct searches or to access any evidence in the hands of the police or magistrates. “They have no legal right to prosecute or to participate in prosecutions. The ad hoc support that Europol is currently giving Malta does not allow Malta’s police access to evidence in other jurisdictions.”

As an example, Caruana Galizia said Malta’s police force does not have access to evidence like that in the Panama Papers, the Azerbaijani laundromat and at ABLV in Latvia. Likewise, Europol has no access to data from Pilatus Bank, Nexia BT, Electrogas, or even Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi’s equipment, and Joseph Muscat’s offshore email servers.

Investigating murder and investigating corruption should not be separate, he said, adding that it was evident that his mother’s murder was linked to corruption.

“None of the magistrates conducting these weak, fragmented and ultimately doomed inquiries is actually looking to each other,” Caruana Galizia said.

“Even with the support of Europol, there are close to a dozen magisterial inquiries into individual pieces of what is the same grand corruption and kickback scheme that led directly to my mother’s assassination.”

He said Mizzi and Schembri’s Panama companies, Nexia BT, Electrogas, 17 Black, and SOCAR were “weapons used in the same crime of corruption that led to the assassination”.

On Friday, Special Rapporteur for the Council of Europe Pieter Omtzigt called on Malta to “end the prevailing climate of impunity by robustly investigating and prosecuting those suspected of being involved in or benefiting from the scandals”.

He called on the Maltese authorities to set up joint investigation teams to effectively tackle and look into the numerous long-standing allegations of high-level political corruption, saying the persistent failure to investigate credible allegations of high level corruption or to reform institutions has gone on for too long.

                           
                               
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