Robert Abela won’t take action unless the hitman the State cut a plea bargain with names the sitting minister he alluded to in court.
Vince Muscat said under oath that a current government minister was involved in a “big job” — a major crime — that took place a few years ago, sparking speculation that the killer was talking about the botched 2010 HSBC heist in Qormi, where Minister Carmelo Abela was manager at the time.
But the prime minister wants you to know that unless Vinny coughs up a name he’s helpless to do anything about it — including asking his own Cabinet if it was one of them.
“When the witness reveals who he is referring to,” Abela said, “I’ll be able to go through that exercise.”
You can be forgiven for thinking you’re living in Absurdistan.
What’s preventing the prime minister from asking them right now, apart from not wanting to know? Or rather, not wanting you to know that he knows, because if you know that he knows, then he’ll have to do something about it.
Of course, he did make a show of ‘ordering’ police to investigate this latest claim, which only raised questions about who they answer to. Like his predecessor Joseph Muscat, Abela deliberately blurs the line at his convenience, claiming “I’ll let the institutions do their job” when he wants to avoid taking action, and ordering those same supposedly independent institutions to investigate something — or at least pretend that they are — when he needs to look like he wants something solved.
Are the institutions working, as Abela and others are so fond of saying? Or is that — to use their favourite term — just an allegation? Malta’s law enforcement institutions are either independent or they’re not.
The public inquiry has already shown us that men like Lawrence Cutajar, Silvio Valletta, Ian Abdilla and Peter Grech don’t act on obvious crimes when politicians don’t want them to. These men cashed their paycheques and betrayed your trust, instead.
Abela’s job is to set the country’s political agenda and try to run things in a manner that makes life better and safer for everyone — a job he’s failed at catastrophically, judging by the out of control pandemic he’s mismanaging and the declining economy.
While not even Bodybuilder Bob can stop a virus, he could do something about that economic decline. Investors would feel a lot more confident about Malta if they thought it wasn’t a Mafia State where criminals and crooked politicians rule over their own tainted brand of ‘law’.
Changing the country’s sordid reputation begins with prosecuting those who have already been exposed — over and over again — starting with top politicians. The evidence has been in the public record for years. But actually holding criminal politicians to account might not be so easy for a prime minister who used to be a mob lawyer.
This brings us back to Vince Muscat.
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa seems helpless to investigate claims made under oath by a witness they presumably advised Cabinet to pardon.
Gafa said he asked the hitman which minister he was referring to, but the hitman told him he’d rather not say. What more can the Commissioner do besides shrug? Well, I’ll tell you. He could start with some police work.
The involvement of a sitting minister in a botched bank robbery isn’t even the most shocking revelation.
Vince Muscat also said former Economy Minister Chris Cardona was “very close” to the Degiorgio brothers. His testimony is corroborated by eyewitnesses who claim they saw Cardona with the killers at both Stables and Ferdinand’s Bar. Cardona was also implicated by Melvin Theuma, the middleman turned State’s witness against Yorgen Fenech.
While it may not worry many in Malta that a government minister had career criminals and hitmen for drinking buddies, it sure looks completely surreal to everyone else. What’s even stranger is that no one’s willing to do anything about it.
But how can they if they’re compromised, too?
Robert Abela had the bomb-making Maksar brothers as former clients, not to mention Joseph Muscat. Do they have something on the prime minister?
And can anyone count how many times Keith Schembri has been linked to the killing and cover-up?
When asked to explain why he said “every person involved” in Malta’s most shocking political assassination has been caught, the police commissioner waffled on about the difference between “admissible evidence” and intelligence.
“Up until that day, with the evidence we had in hand, it did not result that politicians were involved,” he said. “Admissible evidence refers to what a person has experienced directly. In that sense, although I do not wish to go into the merits of any case right now, it is important that we understand that we refer to as evidence that the police and the Attorney General can use in court.”
Was it a sign of what’s coming next? Was Gafa’s statement meant to discredit Vince Muscat’s testimony — or those parts of it that aren’t directly related to convicting the Degiorgio brothers?
Police didn’t need to strike a deal with a witness to convict those two. The case against the hitmen was sewn up with hard evidence from the American FBI and Europol. But Muscat’s testimony related to others is largely based on information relayed to him by his partners in crime.
Will the case against Fenech suffer a similar fate? Don’t expect him to go down alone if he’s convicted.
The longer this travesty of justice drags on, the more it looks like Joseph Muscat’s attempt to treat the arrest of the hitmen as case closed is still the plan under Continuity Bob.
‘State capture’ refers to systemic political corruption used by private interests to influence a government’s decisions in their favour.
We’ve reached a point where those ‘private interests’ aren’t just business empires that want to build on prime land or push through a power station no one needs. In Malta, the State has been captured by organised crime to a point where it’s no longer possible to separate the criminals from the politicians.
The only difference seems to be that the politicians haven’t been convicted yet. How can they be when they’re in control of the only institutions with the power to lock them away?