Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa finally called a press conference. Journalists gathered expectantly at Bacir Nru 1, in the shadow of the American University of Malta.
Gafa’s dramatic news? Community policing was being extended to Cottonera. He bragged that “surveys have shown that people’s trust in the police had grown”, because of community policing.
Minister Byron Camilleri made more ludicrous claims. Extension of the scheme, he proclaimed, led to more security.
Days earlier, a US State Department report concluded that Malta failed minimum standards in the fight against human trafficking. It condemned the lack of investigations of officials and the failure to prevent complicity. In 2020, the police identified the lowest number of trafficking victims in years – just six. Far from the hype at Bormla’s Bacir, the report painted a true picture of Malta’s police: “Perennial issues with an understaffed police force continue to hamper prosecutions and convictions”.
The report listed a long raft of sorely needed changes. Community policing was not on it. Conviction of traffickers and complicit officials was.
While organised crime overruns the island, the minister and his commissioner fiddle with community police projects.
Meanwhile, Palermo’s prosecutors uncovered a vast Malta gambling network linked to Cosa Nostra and described Malta as the ATM for the Italian Mafia. Several mobsters were operating in Malta.
Benedetto Bacchi used Maltese gaming licenses to generate 16 million per month in collusion with Ndrangheta. Carlo Cattaneo, linked to Cosa Nostra, owned agencies operating under Maltese brand Betaland. Centurion Bet, another Malta-based company, was used by Ndrangheta to launder money. It operated Bet1128, linked to Puglia’s organised crime syndicate, Sacra Corona Unita.
Vincenzo Romeo, nephew of Cosa Nostra boss Nitto Santapaola linked up with Massimo Lagana to organise live poker at Yorgen Fenech’s Casino. Meanwhile, Heathcliff Farrugia, Labour’s Gaming authority CEO, was colluding with Yorgen Fenech to conceal lax money laundering controls at Portomaso.
Pierre Darmanin, whose ship was found carrying 550,000 contraband cigarettes was in touch with the Degiorgio brothers after Caruana Galizia contacted him. Josef Cassar who lost both legs in a car bomb at Aldo Moro Steet was linked to Darmanin through the ship MV Silver King. Fisherman Martin Cachia who was killed in a car bomb was mentioned in a letter allegedly signed by Darmanin.
David Abela was found dead in Swieqi in February 2017. One week earlier, Romeo Bone had both legs blown off in a car bomb. Victor Calleja died in a car bomb one month earlier in Marsa. John Camilleri, linked to the Degiorgios, was blown up at St Paul’s Bay in October 2016.
Raymond Caruana, a suspected drug trafficker was shot 30 times with an assault rifle. Jonathan Pace was shot in the back and head on his balcony. Darren Degabriele, a suspected smuggler was killed in a car bomb. Pietru Cassar was gunned down in Zejtun. Joe Galea was shot 20 times outside his Marsa apartment. All gangland cases remain unsolved.
Giuseppe Campobasso, Palermo’s anti-drug chief described Malta as “the crossroad of illegal trafficking”. Drugs once transported by Syrians are now moved aboard Maltese-owned vessels. Paul Attard’s vessel, the Quest, was impounded near Sicily with 10 tonnes of hashish. Three million packets of cigarettes, the largest seizure ever, were impounded in Spanish waters on Attard’s ships. Several European law enforcement agencies were involved. Malta’s were not.
The Sovereign M, owned by Silvio Mizzi, was impounded in Zuwara, Libya carrying smuggled diesel. When Italy’s Guardia di Finanzia spotted 12 acts of ship-to-ship smuggling in Maltese waters and called on Malta to stop the illicit trade, Maltese police did nothing. Malta’s home affairs ministry didn’t even respond to requests for comments.
Andrea Bonomo, Catania’s leading smuggling prosecutor commented: “several international requests for collaboration from Maltese authorities have gone unanswered for 18 months”. A Trial International report exposed Malta as providing safe haven for smuggled Libyan oil at Has-Spartan and Ras ill-Hanzir.
The Maltese police have slept on much worse cases. MacBridge, the mysterious company named, with 17-Black, as the source of funds for Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s companies has been linked to Cheng Chen. Chen negotiated the purchase of a 33% Enemalta stake for €320 million.
Nexia BT set up Torbridge, an offshore company for Chen, who was also involved in the Mozura wind farm. One million euros was transferred to Chen’s Dow Media Ltd from 17 Black. Mao Haibin, who sells Maltese residency in China is linked to Chen. Mao owns a company, Asiatica Corporation Services, with Konrad Mizzi’s personal lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici who negotiated the windfarm deal. Mao’s younger brother, set up a company with Roderick Cutajar, former head of Malta Residence Visa Agency selling residency to Chinese buyers.
What have the police done about all this? What have they done about the illegal DB ITS deal? Or the invalid St Vincent De Paul contract? Where are the millions that Vitals’ Ram Tumuluri escaped with? What’s happened with the Mozura wind farm report handed to police months ago? What about the SOCAR and Electrogas heists?
This inaction is not the result of an under-resourced police force of a small state overwhelmed by billionaire organised crime networks. The horrifying reality is that inaction was driven by police leadership colluding with the worst criminal elements.
Silvio Valletta secretly travelled with Yorgen Fenech and protected him by allegedly passing sensitive information to him.
Former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar hosted Melvin Theuma’s friend ‘Il-Gojja’ in his own home and leaked details to the murder middleman.
Ian Abdilla, former Economics Crime unit chief cancelled Yorgen Fenech’s interrogation at Portomaso and botched requests for information from Dubai.
The sons of ex-Commissioner Ray Zammit, themselves police officers in the Economic Crimes Unit and the Fraud Squad, went into business with Joe Gaffarena and were linked with Mafioso Vincenzo Locorotondo.
Ray Aquilina, anti-money laundering police chief leaked sensitive information to Yorgen Fenech’s associate, Johann Cremona.
Worse still, that inaction is fueled by the internecine links to convicted or suspected criminals of government ministers, the chief of staff and the former prime minister. The current prime minister protects Carmelo Abela and Rosianne Cutajar – the former accused of and the latter admitted to receiving bagfuls of cash from unsavoury characters.
When a root-and-branch overhaul of the police force is required Gafa delights in window dressing. Not a single person has been convicted. Not one.
Commissioner Gafa is just a useful tool in Labour’s propaganda war. He paints a rosy picture of old grannies protected from petty crime in village streets, while criminals freely loot their country’s assets and their children’s future.