A minister in Robert Abela’s government was involved in the botched HSBC heist according to Vince Muscat, il-Koħħu. The minister was to receive €300,000 if the heist succeeded. Former deputy leader Chris Cardona, also allegedly involved, was to pocket €1 million.
Vince Muscat was granted a presidential pardon. One of the conditions is that he must state the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Muscat cannot afford to be untruthful.
So there is little doubt that his court testimony was factual and precise. Nobody disputed the veracity of his claim. Prime Minister Robert Abela was outraged. Not by the shocking revelations that a former deputy leader and a current minister were involved in serious crime – but by Jason Azzopardi. Azzopardi’s latest ‘crime’, according to Abela, was that he did not pressure the witness to name the minister involved in the “big job”.
But it was Magistrate Stafrace Zammit who ordered the witness not to name individuals unrelated to the Caruana Galizia murder – not Jason Azzopardi. Chris Cardona was mentioned because he was linked to the murder – the unnamed minister wasn’t. According to Vince Muscat, Cardona hatched a plot to murder the journalist in 2015 and provided information to the alleged murderers after the assassination.
Abela is not going to let facts get in the way. His objective was to obscure the sordid revelations to target Labour’s punch bag, Jason Azzopardi. “In my opinion, it is clear that someone intended to keep the allegations vague,” Abela misled.
The Prime Minister found the detailed information provided by Muscat “vague”. In order to appear decisive and powerful, he ordered the Police Commissioner to establish who Muscat was referring to. Even as he dictated to the Commissioner what to do, Abela falsely advised: “Let’s let the Commissioner do his work”.
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ sprang into action, as Abela demanded. Within 24 hours of receiving orders, Gafa’ reported back to his master. Il-Koħħu refused to name the sitting Minister. But it wasn’t the Commissioner who informed the public. It was Robert Abela who advised ONE TV listeners that the case was closed.
The Commissioner had conveniently reported that no names were revealed. And therefore Abela’s problem was solved. The Commissioner has politely accepted Muscat’s refusal to divulge names and hastily concluded his thorough forensic investigation. All Ministers were swiftly absolved.
But didn’t clause (c) of the presidential pardon clearly state that if Muscat refuses to make depositions or statements requested of him he would lose his pardon? That clause is not linked to any particular crime. But constraining Muscat to reveal the name of the Minister is not in Abela’s interest. Keeping things vague and blaming them on Jason Azzopardi suits him just fine. Concealment and cover-up are what’s required. And Abela has been working hard at it – and getting the Commissioner to do the same.
On 23 February, Abela convened a press conference, after Vince Muscat’s admission and sentencing, to express his pride that “this is a country where the rule of law prevails”. He bragged that this was “a step closer to establishing the truth”. And promptly proceeded to demolish that truth. Deceitfully he claimed that “no names of politicians past and present have cropped up yet in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder”. He must have known otherwise.
Not content with making the misleading statement, Abela needed support. Commissioner Gafa’ obliged. Within hours he was parroting Abela’s false claim: “Every person involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder has been caught – there is no evidence that politicians were involved”.
Vince Muscat’s court testimony discredited the Commissioner entirely. In a frantic scramble to save himself, Gafa’ mounted a pitiful defence: “Admissible evidence the police had on 24 February did not indicate politicians’ involvement”. He deliriously pleaded: “There is a difference between intelligence and evidence admissible in court”.
Gafa’ claimed the police have continued intensive investigations into the homicide. If the investigations are still on-going why was he blathering that “every person involved in the murder had been caught”? Why was he echoing Robert Abela’s misinformation that “no politicians’ names cropped up”. Because the Prime Minister desired it, indeed expected it.
The prospect of another police commissioner pandering to the whims of another prime minister sends shivers down our spines.
Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, overawed by Joseph Muscat’s manhood, dutifully buried FIAU reports on serious crime by Muscat’s protégés – Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Brian Tonna, Adrian Hillman. Not only were they not apprehended but not even a cursory investigation was launched. Robert Abela rewarded him with a €31,000 consultancy post, ironically on public safety.
As National Audit Office reports exposed criminal negligence and intent, Commissioner Gafa’ surreptitiously looked away. The Electrogas report found that a €360 million government guarantee was irregular, that there was “possible distortion” of the tendering process, and that the final assessment of the competing bids was overseen by the managing partner of Nexia BT.
The Vitals report exposed “collusion” and “lack of governance” by Konrad Mizzi. “Major flaws and failings” were due to the government’s prior agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare before issuing the request for proposals.
The ITS report revealed “gross shortcomings in governance” and false claims by Konrad Mizzi’s ministry that the AG’s advice was followed when this hadn’t even been sought.
Nexia BT played a significant role in all three corrupt deals – Electrogas, Vitals and ITS. But Commissioner Gafa’ is not investigating.
When Cutajar was replaced, Robert Abela’s declaration of a new dawn, without evidence, was little more than a confidence trick. It was a cosmetic exercise intended to obscure reality – the reality of continuity. Far from allowing Commissioner Gafa’ his autonomy, Abela dictates how he should act, when he should and what he must say. Joseph Muscat’s consultant hasn’t reformed his character overnight.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). A different puppet, a different string-puller, but the very same moves.