Contrary to testimonies made by former economic crimes unit chief Ian Abdilla and police superintendent Antonovich Muscat, Dubai is making an effort to assist and cooperate in the probe into 17 Black, MEP David Casa explained to the public inquiry board on Friday.
In a previous sitting, Muscat had told the board that they had hit a brick wall when attempting to obtain verification on information linked to 17 Black from Dubai. Earlier in July, Abdilla said this to the board, telling them under oath that Dubai had been uncooperative, although this had contradicted his earlier testimony.
However, Casa said that he had received letters from the UAE’s government, addressed to Malta’s Justice Minister explaining that the request by the Maltese police was not complete and gave the authorities information on how to go about completing the request in order for Dubai to be able to provide “full assistance”.
Casa added that the UAE had also requested meetings with the police and that an online meeting was held between the UAE government and the Attorney General Peter Grech at the request of the former.
The ambassador of UAE had also reassured the MEP that Dubai would cooperate as it does not want to be seen as being involved in the murder of a journalist in Europe, he said.
Casa presented the board with correspondence he had with the Ambassador.
“Why is the Maltese government not doing this? Why does the government not want this information to arrive? And why did Abdilla say that they did not receive an acknowledgement?
We have a situation where Dubai is running after Malta for details to be requested in an official manner, and Malta is not doing this,” Casa told The Shift in a comment following the sitting.
The inquiry was set up to investigate whether the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia could have been prevented.
No police protection, despite ‘many’ requests
Casa told the board that he has been requesting police protection, which he never received.
His requests to the police were made after he had published the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) report and included “many” letters sent to former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar. Casa did not specify whether requests were also sent to new commissioner Angelo Gafa.
In a passionate testimony, Casa told the board how he had started receiving threats after digging into murder suspect Yorgen Fenech’s Dubai company 17 Black. Although he reported such threats to the police, no action had been taken, he said.
The threats included anonymous phone calls, missed calls from Azerbaijan, Facebook threats calling for him to be “eliminated” and threats in the form of lawsuits from former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
“The State should protect journalists, whistleblowers and parliamentary members who are speaking out about corruption,” he said.
Casa added that he feels much safer when in Brussels than Malta.
“The police are saying Daphne did not have police protection because she didn’t want it when they should have been protecting her anyway. I asked for protection and wanted it, but still didn’t get it,” he said.
We are observing the Public Inquiry into the assassination of #DaphneCaruanaGalizia today in Valletta. European Parliament Member David Casa will be testifying today. We will update when we can #MediaFreedomRR pic.twitter.com/mfPQ9ETmUL
— ECPMF (@ECPMF) July 31, 2020
Casa’s situation was also noted by European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) coordinator Nick Williams who was present at the inquiry.
“Impunity is still going on and there seems to be a climate of fear for those who speak out, Daphne was the biggest example of this,” he told The Shift following the sitting.
Williams reiterated the ECPMF’s full support for the inquiry and investigation into the journalist’s death. “Journalists should never be threatened or at risk,” he added.
Casa felt PN ‘did not push’ his candidature in MEP election
Casa was questioned on what he knew regarding an alleged payment made by Fenech to PN in order to make sure that Casa is not re-elected as MEP following his work on 17 Black at EU level.
Casa replied that in the run-up to the MEP elections he did feel that the Party did not push him as a candidate, and was not given as much party coverage as usual, even though he was the Head of Delegation.
Requests for investigations met with silence
Questioned by Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi as to whether the police ever contacted Casa to discuss 17 Black or the FIAU report, Casa said: “Never”.
Casa also told the board that he had sent letters to the Accountancy Board about money laundering allegations linked to Nexia BT, but he never received a response.
He added that Nexia BT employee Karl Cini is also a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and has therefore asked the association to investigate Cini but has not received any information as to whether any steps have been taken in that regard.
“Nexia BT still operates till today despite all the evidence on money laundering, it hasn’t been stopped from operating,” he said.
Similarly, Casa expressed shock to the board about the police not having taken action against Pilatus Bank despite its owner, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, being arrested in the US.
What Sadr was charged for in the US has nothing to do with what happened here in Malta, so he should be extradited here to face justice about facts linked with money laundering here, he added.