It’s a strange coincidence that my 100th column for The Shift should fall on the third anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
I’m sometimes asked why I’m still writing about Malta when I left the island four years ago and have no intention of going back.
I keep writing because corrupt businessmen in league with corrupt politicians conspired to kill a writer — and a person — I admired.
In the last email I had from her, Daphne wrote, “Life here in Malta is set to regress to what I knew growing up in the 1970s and 1980s — minus the human rights violations and the open physical violence, one hopes.”
It’s become increasingly clear that the money-grubbing Electrogas deal was the motive for her murder. Too many illicit futures had been bet on 17 Black to let one journalist get in the way.
The so-called ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ had their roadmap to personal riches sketched out long before the 2013 election.
Their first act after coming to power was to open three secret offshore tax avoidance structures in Panama. Karl Cini must have made those calls to Mossack Fonseca even as the street cleaners were sweeping away the trash of Labour’s victory rallies.
Joseph Muscat then ordered an Egrant-sized revision to the ministerial code of ethics. Cabinet members would no longer have to include assets owned by their spouses or underage children in their annual declaration.
With those structures safely in place, the pre-planned power station project was pushed ahead at all costs.
Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t a smooth ride.
When their own utter incompetence threatened to derail their easy money dreams through bankruptcy, they risked a national financial meltdown by forcing banks to give Electrogas a massive €360 million bridge loan backed with a government guarantee.
Muscat’s Minister for Shady Deals Konrad Mizzi also signed a Security of Supply Agreement that locked you in to buying liquified natural gas from Azerbaijan’s SOCAR for inflated prices for 18 years.
Knowing full well this was illegal State aid, Electrogas hid the agreement from the European Commission that had to approve the project, and they hid it from the foreign investors whose money they hoped would bankroll their deal.
When Daphne Caruana Galizia found out about it, the conspirators hired three bottom-feeding contract killers to end her life.
They were arrogant enough to believe they’re untouchable — and with good reason.
When he became prime minister, Muscat exploited each of the country’s institutional weaknesses one appointment at a time, until the head of every authority that mattered owed their livelihoods directly to him.
But Daphne’s story didn’t end with a car bomb.
Her sons and family formed alliances in the wider European community, where they fought a tireless campaign for justice for their mother and their country.
A handful of protestors calling themselves Occupy Justice kept Daphne’s memory alive with a memorial in the centre of Valletta, which they defended against Justice Minister Owen Bonnici’s efforts to throw it in the trash every night.
And a handful of journalists — including The Shift’s Caroline Muscat — kept investigating and kept holding the powerful to account, backed by honest people who support these efforts through their donations.
It never should have taken this long to make progress, but the dominos began falling in November 2019.
Electrogas CEO and alleged murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech was arrested after allegedly trying to run away on his boat.
Keith Schembri was arrested on charges of money laundering, but having his assets frozen by the courts is the least of his worries. Schembri’s name has come up in the murder trial more often than Moses does in the Old Testament.
The disgraced and disgraceful Joseph Muscat was driven from office by angry citizens, but he’s still working behind the scenes to avoid the inevitable reckoning that’s hurtling towards him.
Konrad Mizzi is still a member of parliament, but he was ejected from his own parliamentary group and now warms his seat as an independent.
I find it interesting that the dupe who signed his name on every dubious contract insisted Projects Malta head Alfred Camilleri look him in the eyes “and say I am not involved in anything.” It’s safe to assume he wasn’t referring to the deals he signed on behalf of his Panama Pals.
All roads lead to these four men, but their alleged crimes would have been impossible without an army of pliable hangers-on. Many of them have fallen from grace, too.
Muscat’s bunny nibbling pet police commissioner, the inept Lawrence Cutajar, is finally gone. He spent a few more months slurping at the public trough thanks to a lucrative consultancy contract, but public outrage put an end to that.
Deputy Police Commissioner ‘Leaky’ Silvio Valletta was forced to resign over conflicts of interest long before we learned he’d been keeping the lead suspect informed about the progress of the murder investigation.
And former Head of the Economic Crimes Unit Ian Abdilla was removed when the public found out he had repeatedly chosen not to investigate the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’s’ dodgy financial dealings. His excuse? Disgraced former Attorney General Peter Grech told him not to.
If any of these law enforcement officials had acted when evidence of corruption and financial crime was made public, then Daphne would still be alive today.
They have blood on their hands — but they’re not alone.
If just one of the many public officials who told the inquiry they saw nothing and heard nothing — and besides, they were just following orders — had done their duty, then Daphne would still be alive today.
If the Electrogas shareholders hadn’t been so blinded by greed that they were eager to overlook proof their CEO owned a kickback vehicle linked to prominent and very powerful politicians, then Daphne would still be alive today.
If a single Labour Party minister or backbencher had stood up to the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ rather than quietly cash their paycheque and soak up their perks, then Daphne would still be alive today.
There were so many opportunities to knock this illicit gravy train off the rails if only someone had the courage to say, ‘Enough’.
Malta is a story of the shameless and the spineless. I’ve never seen so many greedy opportunists happy to turn a blind eye as long as there’s something in it for them.
For some, it was a direct order worth hundreds of thousands of euros for a contract they’d never win through open bidding.
For others, it was a civil service non-job, perhaps with a title and a chauffeured car.
Some were willing to sell their support for nothing more than a bag of bread with a printed insert from Silvio Schembri, or a sack of oranges with the face and contact details of Chris Fearne.
How easy it would have been for these leeches if Daphne’s murder had gone unsolved.
But Malta is also the story of the George Cross, and the determination of politicians like Eddie Fenech Adami, and of regular citizens who refused to back down in the face of violent Party thugs. We saw that determination again last December.
The people who robbed you blind are still holding on to the slimy levers of power.
Three years later, no one’s been held accountable for Daphne’s violent execution — but they will be.
There’s only one ending to this story.
The walls are closing in.