Protesters gathered in Valletta on Friday evening to demand the resignation of Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg following a dramatic court hearing in which Darren ‘it-Topo’ Debono, one of the criminals involved in the HSBC heist from 2010, refused to name accomplices in spite of having signed a plea deal with Buttigieg’s office in exchange for his testimony.
The protest, organised by civil society groups Repubblika and Occupy Justice, and Manuel Delia, follows a tumultuous week in which Debono refused to name accomplices in the heist other than Vince ‘il-Koħħu’ Muscat, who was already given a presidential pardon to tell all about his role in the crime.
In his testimony, Muscat had shared details of the violent heist in which some 65 shots were fired. Muscat had alleged that disgraced former economy minister Chris Cardona, as well as sitting minister within the office of the prime minister Carmelo Abela, were also involved. At the time, Abela worked at the bank and had access to equipment used to print access keys that the robbers had used during the heist. Both have denied the allegations.
Following Debono’s appearance in court on Thursday and his refusal to name accomplices despite a plea deal, the Attorney General is being accused of incompetence. A plea bargain is irreversible once the person in question has been sentenced, as is the case for Debono. Twenty years were shaved off Debono’s sentence, including removal of charges related to the attempted murder of police officers.
“Today we can say it is a fact that the Attorney General chose to reach an agreement with a criminal who was not willing to expose anyone, while she completely ignored the other criminals who declared they were ready to testify and mention the accomplices in the heist,” Repubblika president Robert Aquilina said during the protest.
Aquilina said Debono’s refusal to uphold his end of the deal made it clear “the public had gained nothing from the deal between the Attorney General and Debono”.
“While, to Buttigieg, the plea deal was merely a signature on paper, for the police officers and the people in her office who do their job well and in the name of serving justice, it was a knife in the back that led to nothing,” he added. “For this reason, Buttigieg has no other option left today other than to resign”.
The organisations also called for the resignation of Minister Carmelo Abela as well as Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis. They also criticised Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ for failing to explain any role he may have played in the negotiations that led to the plea deal.