It’s time for Peter Grech to go

The former Head of the economic crimes unit has finally confirmed what the rest of us have known for over four years.

The Malta police did nothing to investigate the Panama Papers revelations.

In case you need reminding, the massive data leak contained notarized copies personal documents, company opening forms, and email chains that detailed attempts by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri to open bank accounts in some of the world’s dodgiest banking jurisdictions.

Those opening forms also listed Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black as a main source of incoming funds for Mizzi and Schembri’s Panama companies.

Yes, the same Fenech currently on trial for ordering the murder of the journalist who was investigating links between 17 Black and the government’s pet Electrogas power station project.

Wait for the results of the magisterial inquiries, Joseph Muscat said, shielding these men from investigation over and over and over again. Let the institutions do their job.

But how could we trust him when the embattled prime minister’s words were tainted by the obvious spectre of the third Panama company whose ultimate beneficial owner was too important to be named by email?

To make matters worse, the FIAU had already compiled detailed reports on Mizzi, Schembri, Adrian Hillman and Nexia BT director Brian Tonna that deputy director Alfred Zammit said showed reasonable suspicion of money laundering.

You’d think all these ‘coincidences’ would be enough to set any detective’s instincts on edge. But in this case, you’d be wrong.

When the panel of judges at the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death asked the former head of the police economic crimes unit Ian Abdilla whether he’d questioned the only sitting EU minister exposed by the Panama Papers, or Muscat’s shady chief of staff, all he could do was sit there shuffling around in embarrassment.

When Abdilla finally bleated out a pathetic “No”, the board was incredulous.

“How could you not send for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi?” Judge Abigail Lofaro said. “We seem to be living in a parallel universe.”

Sadly, that may have been the least of his omissions.

Abdilla didn’t send an official request for information to Panama, either. He gave up on Dubai without pushing very hard. And he didn’t bother asking Montenegro for information at all.

As for the men who set up these Panama company structures — and so much else — Nexia BT directors Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, Abdilla admits he only spoke to them during the Egrant inquiry.

Abdilla wasn’t alone in choosing to look the other way while Muscat’s closest collaborators laundered money like an Iranian banker with two bulging bags and a private jet.

Towards the end of the sitting, Judge Joseph Said Pullicino asked whether Abdilla’s total inaction had anything to do with written advice from Attorney General Peter Grech “to tread very carefully on the Panama Papers, because there was trouble brewing in the country”.

The judge was referring to a document found in an Economic Crimes Unit file.

“Was that why you did nothing?” he asked.

Ian Abdilla said he didn’t remember, and insisted on giving the rest of his testimony behind closed doors.

We don’t know what excuses Abdilla made for his failures in there. But according to Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi, the ‘go slow’ document by the Attorney General was exhibited.

Peter Grech “categorically denied it”, of course — or rather, he “denies the claim made by Jason Azzopardi” on Facebook.

Which part, I wonder? The part where Azzopardi mentioned the document written by Grech in the ECU file? Or the part where he expressed what so many of us think: that the Attorney General is a spineless bootlicker?

Always keen to leave no stone unturned, Grech took a spade to his thesaurus and accused the lawyer and Opposition MP of “calumny”.

Will ‘calumny’ replace ‘serenity’ as the new Labour buzzword?

Joseph Muscat started the trend when he used ‘calumny’ to distance himself from the Montenegro wind farm scandal that he claimed not to be involved in.

You know, the one where photos and videos show him cutting the ribbon, and meeting with fellow OCCRP Person of the Year for Corruption and Organized Crime Milo Djukanovic.

Muscat has always been very careful with his words, choosing phrases like, “If even a shred of evidence exists” rather than outright denial.

But others apparently weren’t so careful with the documents they signed.

Peter Grech lost what remained of his credibility long ago. It’s time for him to resign.

The inept Ian Abdilla is already gone (well, transferred), but he isn’t off the hook quite yet. Not if he helped cover up crimes that led to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

And what of the journalists slapped with multiple libel suits for reporting on evidence — not allegations, but evidence — contained in the Panama Papers?

They were forced to defend themselves in court at great expense, while other less scrupulous journalists and editors parroted the government’s “where’s the evidence” line that targeted their colleagues, in exchange for ‘access’ and tips.

To steal a line from Orwell, we “looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”.

That’s the literal definition of ‘Mafia State’: a system where the government is tied with organised crime, including when government officials and police who take part in illicit enterprises or deliberately obstruct the course of justice by failing to act.

In the sunshine Land of the Kickback King, it’s getting difficult to separate the criminals from the politicians, and the propagandists from the pigs at the trough.


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