It’s time for Europol to intervene

The brutal killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia will not be solved in Malta.

The rot goes too deep, and far too many people have a stake in ensuring the truth never comes out.

The revelations emerging from the Yorgen Fenech trial are confirming what many of us have suspected all along. Highly placed police officers are collaborating with politicians and businessmen to cover up the murder of a journalist.

‘Collaborating’ — in the present tense.

Disgraced chief of staff Keith Schembri’s name pops up again and again, but apart from a very brief stay in police custody, he remains untouchable, free to travel to London and Tunisia. He wasn’t even pressed very hard about his conveniently ‘lost’ phone, which disappeared hours before he was arrested.

Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta vacationed with the chief suspect in the case, deliberately leaking information on the progress of the investigation to the very man they would eventually — perhaps against their will — have to arrest.

The disgraced cop was such a familiar face in their world that Fenech’s children called him “Uncle Silvio”.

But police have not seized Valletta’s laptop or mobile; nor has he been arrested. When asked why, acting police chief Carmelo Magri said Valletta had “categorically denied” the allegations. Well, that’s alright then. We can move on.

Disgraced former commissioner Lawrence Cutajar met with an associate of middleman Melvin Theuma and passed on a warning that the police knew about Theuma’s secret recordings.

A bumbling Cutajar attempted to launder his reputation with a press interview in which he claimed to have intervened simply because he was worried police wouldn’t get their hands on the tapes.

But did he want to preserve them as evidence or make sure they were safely destroyed?

The police haven’t shown any willingness to investigate the man who kept the heat off Pilatus Bank until Ali Sadr’s laundry had been safely whisked away. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi had to ask Magistrate Rachel Montebello to order them to do so.

Cutajar only lost his government consultancy — the replacement for his lost Commissioner’s salary — once the news had come out in open court.

Disgraced former Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s name has come up again and again, too, with Theuma alleging Cardona had given large sums of money to the DeGiorgio brothers in what may have been a parallel murder contract — or worse, pooling of funds for the killing by both political and business figures.

And yet, Cardona remained Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, insisting he had done nothing wrong, and we should just wait and see what the courts decide. It’s more important to Cardona that he retain his grasp on the Party, defending himself from a position of power rather than stepping away from his role in order to distance Labour from the cloud hanging over him.

Abela was forced to kick Cardona out, politely asking for his resignation when dropping hints didn’t work, but the axeman was in no hurry to comply. The fact that he took so long was a pointed reminder of who’s really in charge.

And there’s one other name that’s come up again and again in this trial. It’s the name of the bloated spider at the centre of a filthy cobweb of connections; the one who remains the most untouchable of all: ‘‘ix-Xiħ.’ The King of Kickbackistan. The disgraced former prime minister and OCCRP Person of the Year for Corruption and Organized Crime Joseph Muscat.

Never arrested, never questioned by police despite the lavish gifts from his close friend Fenech — the Bvlgari watch, the Petrus wines; despite the secret trips to Azerbaijan, and the many quick ‘vacations’ to offshore banking centres Dubai and London; despite the sham Egrant inquiry.

The person with the most to say is the one everyone conspicuously avoids asking. Someone has to keep the gears of corruption well oiled, and Abela is too incompetent to be trusted.

They’re banking on coming out alright as long as Theuma honours the deal he made for his pardon. But does telling the truth about all he knows mean leaving out certain other inconvenient truths? Only two men can answer this question: the one who unilaterally negotiated that pardon, and the one who received it.

The people responsible for killing Daphne Caruana Galizia become clearer and clearer with each day of testimony in the Fenech trial and the public inquiry. The one thing missing is the arrests.

We’re told to wait for the outcome of a laundry list of inquiries, but the inquiries never have an outcome because they aren’t intended to. Those which aren’t carefully crafted and carefully controlled (like Egrant) are placed in the drawer of compliant policemen, where their pages yellow and their covers collect dust.

Will they disappear entirely once enough time has passed?

If the inquiries are never concluded, can anyone really be guilty?

That’s what so much of this bodged together coverup has involved. Buying more time. Just keep stalling and it’ll go away.

But Malta won’t magically shrug off its Mafia State label because it convicts a few low level players of money laundering, or tries to flub off Moneyval by filing a few more suspicious transaction reports.

Europe is waiting to see proper investigations and convictions in these high level cases. The constant attempts by this government and these players to jab sticks into the spokes of the wheels of justice are pathetically obvious.

Fenech told Theuma they’d be okay as long as Labour was in power.

The Office of the Prime Minister of a European Union Member State has been clearly implicated in the political assassination of a journalist who was engaged in exposing their corruption.

And that web of criminal rot spreads through every institution in the country, from Cabinet ministers to the police, from the Armed Forces to the banking sector. The judiciary has been partially compromised, too.

Who can be relied on to prosecute this criminal network when they control the institutions of justice? These people aren’t going to convict themselves. Besides, far too many people in Malta have a stake in keeping them right where they are.

But there is one small chink in their armour. Malta became so attractive as a base for dirty deals because it’s a back door into the European Union. Many of the crimes these people are profiting from cross national borders and harm other Member States.

The recent raid on ABLV Bank in Latvia — the same bank that passed funds from a citizen of Azerbaijan to Fenech’s 17 Black — has provided an opportunity for outside authorities to intervene.

The ‘sinister’ multinational Electrogas power station deal is the key to the case.

When asked if Fenech ever spoke to him about it, Theuma replied, “Once we were speaking about the murder and he told me that he did everything with precision for the Electrogas power station. He told me ‘I finished it – and the murder is the last thing I need to do. I’m feeling trapped between four walls’”.

The creation of a Europol Joint Investigation Team on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia will draw in law enforcement officials from other countries to follow the money trail beyond Malta.

And they won’t be Labour policemen who can be relied on to turn a blind eye to the occasional ‘blokka bajda’.

It’s time for Europol to intervene. This disgusting farce has gone on long enough.

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