On 16 June, Glenn Bedingfield gave a speech in parliament that was (given its aim) politically skilful and worth analysing on another occasion. But the last few minutes were a scandal.
Bedingfield all but explicitly allied himself with the respective legal defence teams of Alfred Degiorgio and Yorgen Fenech, two of the persons charged by the State as being directly involved in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Degiorgio and Fenech are presumed, of course, to be innocent until proven guilty. You can affirm that and still find Bedingfield’s speech shocking.
His speech was not about affirming innocence. It was about finding the Caruana Galizia family guilty: of “interfering” in the case, giving “instructions” to an investigating magistrate, and deliberately “destroying evidence” that might shed new light on the assassination.
Bedingfield said he is interested in the absolute truth. What he actually did was sow doubt about the State’s legal case.
A look at the details amplifies the scandal.
First, Bedingfield has been raising doubts about Caruana Galizia’s missing laptop (strictly speaking, two laptops plus three hard drives) since April 2018. The day after he first did so, banners went up all over Malta asking where the laptop was.
That well-coordinated campaign was anonymous, part of the ‘Truth Project’. It aimed at undermining the Daphne Project, organised by a consortium of international investigative journalists. Funnily enough, the Truth Project’s stories were shared on social media by Labour government aides, even though they told the Caruana Galizia inquiry that they hadn’t heard of the Truth Project.
Bedingfield is repeating what he said in 2018 despite what we’ve learned since. Now we know for sure that it would have been folly to give Caruana Galizia’s devices to the police. The man then in charge of the investigation, Silvio Valletta, stands accused of having passed on information to the suspected mastermind.
An open court listened to an audio recording where the accused mastermind, Fenech, told the self-confessed middleman, Melvin Theuma that he hoped the laptop would be given to the Malta police.
Second, Bedingfield said that the then magistrate (now judge) Anthony Vella did not pursue any leads from the laptop, while conducting the inquiry into the assassination. He suggested that Vella was taking instructions from the Caruana Galizia family.
How interesting that Bedingfield should echo the very words of Alfred Degiorgio’s lawyer, William Cuschieri, in May 2018 (a month after Bedingfield first spoke about the laptop). Cuschieri didn’t just rest with saying that the devices could contain “sensitive information about third parties responsible for the murder”.
He went on: “Strangely and unfortunately, it appears that the other parties or some of them are letting the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia dictate what evidence is gathered.”
But since July 2018 we have known — from testimony given by then inspector Keith Arnaud to a European Parliament committee — that Vella had in fact travelled to Germany to meet the BKA, the federal criminal police, and was given full access with respect to the Panama Papers.
We also know that the BKA promised their cooperation with any formal request by the Maltese authorities. German law prevented them from handing the devices over, or even making full copies; but the BKA offered to run a keyword search on any data the Maltese authorities were interested in.
Any keyword. If the Maltese investigators were interested in the Caruana Galizia family in any way, they had access to the data. It was not hidden.
Third, this brings us to the outright malice in Bedingfield’s remarks.
He insinuates the family is interested in covering up something about itself. This is doubly malicious: the implication of involvement in murder, which even the most suspicious mind would have to discount given that the German authorities found themselves in possession of supposedly incriminating devices.
Then there is the accusation that the family repeatedly interfered in the investigation. That was already an accusation made in 2018. Since then, the family has been legally vindicated in its claim that it was insisting on its right —asserted in human rights law — to be kept informed by the authorities.
Here, however, is a government MP stating that what the family insisted on is illegitimate. By undermining the human rights of one set of victims, he undermines the rights of all of us. And, to do this, Bedingfield also casts doubt on the impartiality of an inquiring magistrate and other State authorities.
But Bedingfield wasn’t done yet.
Fourth, he claimed that, according to correspondence between the German authorities and Malta’s Attorney General’s office, Caruana Galizia’s devices have since been destroyed on orders of her family.
Does this correspondence exist? Is Bedingfield representing it faithfully? A relevant question given the other distortions in his speech. The Attorney General’s office should tell us.
If the correspondence does exist, another question arises. How does Bedingfield know about it? It’s not in the public domain.
If it exists, it may have been leaked by the Attorney General ‘s office — to an MP who’s using it to undermine the Attorney General’s cases in court. The only other likely possibility is that Bedingfield got it from the legal defence — but why would he be receiving information from the defence?
To sum up, here’s what Bedingfield did while claiming to speak on behalf of absolute truth and impartiality:
He claimed to have information that, if true, possibly means that State officials are still colluding with forces that are undermining the legal case made by the investigators into the assassination.
He reiterated he did nothing wrong in targeting Caruana Galizia when she was alive.
He insinuated the living victims of the assassination have something sinister to hide. He nourished the idea — made explicit by others, not by him — that the family itself had a role in the assassination.
He circulated his speech on social media. He has potentially influenced future jurors. He’s helped the legal defence teams pave the way for an eventual court case claiming that their clients’ respective trials were unfair.
And, four days since that speech, for much of the country, it’s as though nothing’s happened.