Is there anyone in Malta who isn’t desperate to rat out an accomplice for a pardon?
The Degiorgio brothers are the latest in a line of career criminals trying to bargain their way out of the slammer in exchange for ‘solving’ crimes the police couldn’t — or wouldn’t — wrap up.
Five of the seven people arrested and charged so far in connection with the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia have now asked the government for a deal, and two were accepted.
Melvin Theuma was granted a presidential pardon on the sole authority of Joseph Muscat, but it came with conditions. He had to reveal everything he knew, and his testimony had to be corroborated. Did it include avoiding details that would inconvenience the only man with the power to set him free?
Two days after Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi shocked the nation by resigning, word leaked out that Cabinet was holding an emergency meeting to decide whether to grant Yorgen Fenech a pardon in exchange for implicating others he claimed were behind the assassination. The biggest finger of guilt in his case was pointing at Keith Schembri.
Fenech’s pardon was denied in a decision Joseph Muscat claimed had been taken by the entire Cabinet, after seeking advice from the Attorney General.
When asked why he pardoned Theuma but not Fenech, Muscat said the ability to issue pardons did not rest with him alone. It was a direct contradiction of what he’d said one week earlier when claiming the unilateral authority to pardon Theuma. But unlike the earlier pardon, the press was told the entire Cabinet would bear responsibility for the denial of this one.
Hitman Vince Muscat’s route was even more convoluted. The Degiorgios’ gofer had been trying to strike a deal since April 2018. That’s when he told police Melvin Theuma was the middleman in the assassination plot. His offer was ignored by Joseph Muscat, turned down by Robert Abela, and finally approved by Abela and his Cabinet nearly three years after he first started talking.
What sort of agreement did they make with Vince Muscat? What is he expected to tell, and what, if anything, should he leave out? Why are they trying to discredit large portions of his testimony as ‘hearsay’? Surely they examined the evidence he was trading and decided it would stand up in court?
Why were the alleged suppliers of the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia — the brothers Tal-Maksar — only arrested after Vince Muscat struck his deal? They were named to police more than two years ago in connection with the assassination. Everyone seemed to know they were up to their eyeballs in organized crime, drug trafficking, smuggling, and a string of car bombs that played out over the last decade.
Why didn’t Robert Abela recuse himself from the decision that ultimately led to their arrest? He represented the Tal-Maksar brothers as their lawyer several years earlier.
There are more questions than answers, and none of it looks good.
Now the Degiorgio brothers want to walk away free men in exchange for pointing the finger at someone else. The lure they’ve dangled is the names of politicians involved in serious crimes — including a former minister and a middleman in the Caruana Galizia murder — and information on some of the island’s other unsolved killings.
I guess they were inspired by Vince Muscat, who’s already attempting to spin his first success into pardons for information on additional crimes.
Robert Abela has assured the nation that ‘every request for a presidential pardon will be handled with the utmost responsibility in the national interest’. The rest of us are asking why he’s ‘entertaining’ them at all.
There were 13 Mafia-style killings during the six years I lived in Malta, including seven car bombs in broad daylight, in rush hour traffic. Not a single one was solved. And yet, it took experts from the FBI and Dutch police less than two months to track down the assassins who killed Caruana Galizia using cell phone data.
Why didn’t the Malta police draw on the resources that were available to them to solve those other murders — including help from Europol? Were they content to let well known criminals knock each other off to settle scores? Or were the mobsters untouchable for other reasons?
Short on justifications, the prime minister resorted to whataboutism, citing pardons given years ago under PN governments. Such distractions are thin, even for his core audience.
He leavened it with the usual accusations that the Opposition had ‘redoubled its efforts to harm Malta’ even as the government was trying to save it from Moneyval. Yesterday’s debate in the European Parliament was just another example of their attempts to seize power by airing dirty laundry abroad.
Don’t be blinded by the prime minister’s desperate smokescreen. Ask yourself instead whether the country’s soiled institutions can be trusted to decide on presidential pardons at all.
Can Cabinet decide on a pardon for criminals whose ‘get out of jail’ bid involves naming one — or more — of their own colleagues?
On whose advice will they grant or deny such pardons? The Police Commissioner and the Attorney General. Allow me to refresh your memory on their track record.
Former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar admitted to the public inquiry board that he failed to follow up on any of the corruption cases Caruana Galizia exposed in her work. He didn’t even open a file on the Panama Papers.
Meanwhile, his Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta was busy sending hot tips on the murder investigation to prime suspect Yorgen Fenech, and to Keith Schembri, the man Fenech claims was the true mastermind.
Former Economic Crimes Unit Head Ian Abdilla also admitted he did nothing about the Panama Papers. His stellar police work earned him a medal.
Finally, former Attorney General Peter Grech issued written advice to police “to tread very carefully on the Panama Papers”. He also told them it would be “highly intrusive” to seize evidence from Nexia BT’s servers. If you’re following the testimony in the Brian Tonna money laundering case, I think you’ll know why.
And what of the new Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’?
He held a press conference to support Robert Abela’s claim that everyone involved in the Caruana Galizia murder has been arrested, and no politicians were named — the day before Vince Muscat, the man he advised pardoning in exchange for evidence, named politicians in court.
In a humiliating blow to his credibility, Gafa’ was forced to backpedal days later, splitting hairs between ‘admissible evidence’ and ‘intel’.
Such handpicked officials are tasked with advising a compromised Cabinet who to set free in exchange for a deal they’ll make with career criminals behind closed doors, starting with the Degiorgio brothers: money launderers and thieves who’ve made a lucrative living killing for pay under the eyes of the authorities. You can’t ask for a pardon for the crime and then claim innocence — it’s as close as it gets to an admission of guilt.
Let me remind you of evidence that shows that minutes after the button was pressed and Daphne Caruana Galizia was torn apart, George Degiorgio called a friend and said, “I caught two big fish today.” He was laughing.
Should Konrad Mizzi go unpunished in the hope of nailing someone bigger? Should Brian Tonna and Karl Cini be set free in exchange for naming the next rat up the chain? They know where all the money went, and they know who really owns Egrant.
Who, in the end, will bear responsibility for murdering the journalist, wife and mother who stood up against them?
The longer this case drags on, the more obvious it becomes that career politicians are indistinguishable from career criminals, and potato sheds are the OPM’s operational arm.
The pursuit of justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and her family has become a travesty.
If the Malta police can’t solve this crime without giving everyone an ‘out of jail free’ card, then bring in someone who can.