There’s a reason why people commit crimes. Most of the time, it’s money. And when it’s big crime, it’s usually big money.
But for criminals to enjoy money they have acquired illicitly, it must be made to appear as though it was generated through legitimate means. Otherwise, the crimes committed can be traced to them from the ‘money trail’.
Criminality depends and thrives on money laundering. Where money laundering is rife, crime flourishes. Corruption, usury, theft, murder, prostitution rings, drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud, child pornography, sales of weapons, blackmail – any crime that yields financial proceeds, increases as a result.
The country’s democracy, governance, rule of law and law and order suffer. Impunity becomes the order of the day, while the country’s reputation on an international level deteriorates.
Therefore, it is logical that if a country wants to be serious about curbing crime, it needs to strike crime at its heart – money laundering.
Investigating money laundering is done by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) and by the police, specifically the Economic Crimes Unit. The FIAU provide the police with intelligence, but it is the police who need to convert that intelligence to evidence that leads to arrest, prosecution and conviction.
Yet, only a few cases that the FIAU passed on to the police translated into prosecutions and convictions, as can be seen from this table presented in the Moneyval report.
The man who, until a few days ago, was responsible for the police unit investigating money laundering was Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla. His testimony in the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination last week was jaw-dropping.
The man who was tasked with curbing crime, ensuring that criminals cannot enjoy the proceeds of their crime, or reinvest them in further crime, was doing jack shit. His inertia was especially marked when it came to investigating Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) such as Keith Schembri, then the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, and Konrad Mizzi who was a Minister at the time overseeing major deals now proven to have been corrupt.
Abdilla’s failure to take action was called out several times by the three judges sitting on the Board which is looking into the investigation into the assassination of Caruana Galizia.
“How could you not send for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi?” Judge Abigail Lofaro asked him. Abdilla had nothing to say, except to tell the judge that she had no understanding of such matters. She was quick to cut him down to size.
What emerged from Abdilla’s testimony is that as journalists were facing one libel case after another for their reporting on crime and corruption at the highest levels of government, and activists were being derided and targeted for calling it out, he was sitting on the information and evidence that would have shown that the journalists were correct.
Abdilla is guilty of omission of duty; whether out of incompetence, negligence or malicious intent remains to be seen. Pinning it on the Attorney General does not absolve him. Abdilla was instrumental in creating the impunity that made Caruana Galizia’s assassination possible and helped criminals enjoy the benefits of their crime and avoid justice for several years.
His inaction transformed Malta into a cesspool of crime and impunity and led to the threat of Malta being greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force( FATF), which would cause severe damage to the Maltese economy.
His duty as a police officer is to serve and protect the people. It is clear who he was serving and protecting instead.