“To show men that crimes can be pardoned, and that punishment is not their inevitable consequence, encourages the illusion of impunity and induces the belief that, since there are pardons, those sentences which are not pardoned are violent acts of force rather than the products of justice.” – Cesare Beccaria
Beccaria, the Italian criminologist whose ‘Dei delitti e delle pene’ is still seen by many as the most important treatise ever written on criminal justice reform, wrote those words more than 250 years ago, yet they are as valid today as they were then. Indeed, he might have been writing them specifically for modern-day, PL-blighted Malta.
And, proving his point perfectly, we learned yesterday that Malta’s most vicious alleged serial killers are still whining that because their fellow murderers have been granted a pardon in exchange for ratting on their sewer-mates, they should get one too. They say they want to give the police crucial information about the assassination of Malta’s leading journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, but will only do so if they’re formally forgiven and allowed to walk free.
Having failed to convince the government to grant the pardon they claim to be entitled to, they’ve now written to the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, to complain that they’ve been refused a Presidential Pardon, as granted to their co-conspirators Melvin Theuma and Vincent Muscat, despite their offer of evidence proving criminal activity in ministers and MPs of the government itself as well as in the Malta police force.
They accuse the Labour Party administration of having a “vested interest” in protecting these individuals and “humbly” ask Reynders to intervene in order “that justice in Malta is served evenly and not selectively”.
I can’t imagine what Reynders’ reaction to receiving this letter was. There, in black and white, is a lament from two of Malta’s most sordid career criminals that their extortion attempt on the government failed. There, in black and white, is a clamour that the European Commissioner for Justice intervene to ensure gangland standards of fairness are upheld and that two suspected murderers get validation for their sense of injury at not being rewarded for ratting on their accomplices.
And on top of that, at the same time, there, in black and white, is an accusation that sitting and former cabinet ministers in the ruling government of Malta are killers and bank robbers, on first-name terms with some of the worst criminals in the land. There in black and white is the claim that the government is abusing its power to protect them and in so doing, muzzling and victimising the two appellants in order to keep the truth from being exposed.
In my mind’s eye, I can see Reynard’s jaw hitting the floor. Hopefully, though, he’ll be well aware that the clouds hanging ever heavier over Malta’s PL government are just as sinister as those enveloping the bottom-feeding Degiorgios.
But equally, I wonder what I’d have seen if I’d been a fly on the wall of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s room when he first saw this letter. Abela, who somehow omitted to mention for years that he’d been the lawyer for two of the other alleged killers of Caruana Galizia, Robert and Adrian Aguis, appears ever more flustered under the onslaught of criminal accusations against his cohort of ministers. His responses to the allegations that he’s been sheltering wrongdoers on his front benches are becoming increasingly hysterical and nonsensical.
Despite ever-increasing and solidifying evidence that the Labour Party has indeed been overrun with crooks and that its very foundations have been corrupted so badly that it’s in danger of collapsing into the mud of its own reputation, Abela’s reactions have been those of a mendacious, warped mind-game operator.
Instead of addressing the specifics of the charges laid against his implicated colleagues, he shoots back wild accusations at the Nationalist Party, frantic claims that the PN is in cahoots with criminals (ha!) and accusing his political opponents of having a “coordinated strategy” with the worst denizens of the criminal underworld.
Never mind that it’s irrelevant, never mind that it’s unsupported. Someone’s clearly taught him that the abusers’ fallback when faced with undeniable evidence, known as switch-and-bait, is the easiest way to rebut accusations that can’t really be rebutted. Switch the topic by making a counter-accusation, no matter how ludicrous, and then bait your opponent into defending themselves rather than continue questioning your own wrongdoing. Rinse and repeat as many times as necessary to stun the listener into submission.
Maltese people urgently need a crash course in dealing with manipulative liars like the specimens running our government today. It’s horrendously difficult for even the most rational of people to deal with this type of tactic in their personal lives, but in public life we absolutely must learn to recognise and address it. Outrageous, dishonest and dishonourable as it is, it’s become many MPs’ automatic reaction to anything they don’t feel comfortable with answering.
And the Degiorgio brothers’ tactics fit very neatly into this sleazy, dark environment of deceit, manipulation and twisted mind-games.
The two lowlifes would do better to focus on their obligations before fretting so about “fairness”. I wonder how much “fairness” their victims feel they’ve been dealt by these monstrous killers: Caruana Galizia herself, her family, her friends and her readers.
According to Degiorgios’ letter to the Commissioner, they have evidence that proves there are killers and bank robbers sitting on government benches. Their obligation is one and one alone, especially if they want to shed even the tiniest fraction of the revulsion they’re held in. Their obligation is to tell the police and the courts everything they know, no strings attached, no menaces appended, no holding the Maltese people to ransom.
Because their demand for a pardon in exchange for this critical information is pure blackmail. “Give us what we want or we’ll punish you by withholding the information you need” is blackmail. Indeed, I hope the police have added this charge to the list of crimes these despicable characters have committed. Oh, wait. The police. The incompetent/corrupt bunglers who somehow allowed the Degiorgio brothers and their murderous associates to continue swanning around Malta for years in expensive cars and fancy yachts without thinking to ask what exactly was funding their totally extraordinary lifestyles.
What a mess. And yet there they are, these Degiorgios, their blackmail of an entire population tolerated by a law-enforcement organisation that appears to contain more crooks than honest officers, arrogantly demanding to dictate the terms of their disclosures and avoid the justice they deserve, while whinging to the European Justice Commissioner that their rights have been contravened. Their rights, for God’s sake.
In the meantime, the prime minister lashes out at the Opposition instead of dealing with the critical point that he’s potentially harbouring an actual bank robber in his own cabinet, in his own office, no less. And the inept police force continues haplessly, powerless to solve even these most glaring, crimes without being spoon-fed information or granting favours to perpetrators.
I’m not at all sure what Police Chief Angelo Gafa is doing with his time, but he ought to be utterly ashamed that his officers appear incapable of investigating crimes or interrogating villains effectively, and that they seem entirely dependent on being drip-fed by the very miscreants they’re supposed to be exposing.
The gutter-grovelling Degiorgios are trying to cash in on their sinister, underworld insurance policies: they may well be right about the PL ministers’ criminal involvement, but they should never be allowed to get away with using the justice system as an instrument of mafia-style vengeance.
What the Prime Minister is trying to do can only be speculated, but he too should never be allowed to get away with attempting to muddy the waters with wild counter-accusations, lies and warped facts. There’s a reason liars use switch-and-bait tactics, and that reason is always to deceive, to manipulate and to exploit. Twisted minds and distorted realities; our PM’s shameful response to the crisis of criminality in his closest colleagues is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.