The police and the Office of the Attorney General have so far failed to press charges against any senior political or administrative figure over the Daphne Caruana Galiza murder, corruption or money laundering, despite a string of arrests giving the impression that justice might soon be served.
The high profile asset freezes, arrests and interrogations of those at the helm of government (see list) have not led to any prosecutions. They include former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, several top officials in the police force including former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, and those at the centre of scandals and money laundering allegations, particularly Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna, Karl Cini and Manuel Castagna.
Legal experts have told The Shift that incriminating evidence has already been revealed in a number of ongoing cases in court, which should by implication lead to formal charges.
“So far it’s all smoke and no fire,” a leading criminal lawyer said.
“Police questioning is one thing and charges are another. In certain cases, such as money laundering, it is exceedingly difficult for the police to prove a case and there might be some difficulty to press charges,” he said. “However, in other instances, like when it comes to obstruction of justice, the situation is much clearer.”
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt also noted in his final report: “Despite new laws, new officials, and even a few arrests, no-one has been prosecuted – it’s as simple as that”.
The police call Schembri in for questioning every few months giving the impression that work is progressing. Yet no formal charges have been made. Meanwhile, his phone which may contain critical evidence remains ‘missing’.
Following Yorgen Fenech’s arrest, the man now accused of commissioning Caruana Galizia’s murder said that it was Keith Schembri who was the ‘real’ mastermind. This remains an open question as police interrogations drag on.
As more evidence emerges in court, pressure is mounting on Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ who had declared that he would not shy away from taking the necessary action against those in power if necessary.
Schembri has been named in ongoing court cases, including in the compilation of evidence against Fenech, that he was informed of classified police information about the investigation into the murder and that he was passing on sensitive information to Fenech.
The former chief of staff was also exposed as having been the source of ‘dirt’ leaked to the media with the aim of spinning a different narrative and obstructing the investigation. And Adrian Vella, the doctor for Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech, said under oath that it was the former chief of staff who had passed on a note to Fenech, while in police custody, to derail investigations and shift the blame on others. Schembri, also under oath, denied it.
Schembri was also the subject of a magisterial inquiry concluded in September 2020, three years after it was launched in the aftermath of the Panama Papers, on alleged kickbacks from the sale of passports from Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna. The conclusions of the inquiry remain undisclosed.
Another inquiry focusing on Schembri regarding the alleged transfer of some $650,000 to the former Times of Malta Managing Director Adrian Hillman, again exposed by Caruana Galizia, remains open more than three years after it was launched.
“Although the police seem to be giving the impression that things are moving, this might all be just a show for international institutions, such as Moneyval, to influence important outcomes for the country. Still, it’s only prosecutions that matter and there are instances where its necessity is now glaring,” another legal source told The Shift.
Beyond Schembri, others remain under a cloud of suspicion, including Joseph Muscat who the police said was in regular communication with Fenech while knowing that he was a suspect in the assassination investigation.
Neither did the police accuse their own former Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, even though officials under oath indicated that he was also passing on information about the investigations to Fenech.