Another 16th has come. Next month marks five years of cover-ups, stalled court cases, political shoulder shrugging and police inaction since a massive car bomb ended the life of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Five years since the arrest of the alleged contract killers, the Degiorgio brothers’ trial is yet to begin. Alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech has been in custody for nearly three years and his trial hasn’t started yet, either.
There’s only been one conviction. Hitman Vince Muscat was given a reduced 15-year sentence in a plea bargain deal that saw him turn State’s witness. Middleman Melvin Theuma avoided jail time entirely after being granted a Presidential pardon for telling “all he knows” about the assassination.
No politician has been charged in relation to Daphne’s murder, and no politician or law enforcement official has been charged for interfering with the investigation.
It’s not for lack of evidence.
In the words of Special Rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Pieter Omtzig, the public inquiry into Daphne’s death did more in a few months “to expose the corruption, misgovernment and criminal conspiracies that plagued Malta at the time of her death than all of the endless, opaque and ineffectual magisterial inquiries put together”.
Despite months of damning testimony, no politician has been prosecuted for that corruption. Instead, they’ve walked away or retired, in some cases with rewards.
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar’s record of utter failure and deliberate inaction guaranteed impunity to officials who cashed in and to those who covered up Daphne’s murder. He was finally replaced in January 2020, and handed a €31,000 per year consultancy contract with the Home Affairs Ministry.
Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta vacationed with Yorgen Fenech and reportedly kept him informed of the progress of the murder investigation. He retired from the police force in 2019.
Former Economic Crimes Unit head Ian Abdilla admitted he did nothing about the Panama Papers. His stellar police work earned him a medal. He’s currently doing a student placement with Heritage Malta while on suspension with pay from the police force.
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 corrupt accounting firm Nexia BT’s servers. He’s now earning €62,000 per year as a consultant to the justice minister.
Political enabler Edward Scicluna walked away with a pay raise. His willful blindness as finance minister allowed the asset stripping of the country. Today he’s earning €100,000 per year as Central Bank Governor while collecting over €52,000 in “pensions, interest and dividends”.
Keith Schembri resigned from government after being arrested for questioning in connection with Daphne’s murder. Konrad Mizzi resigned that same day, pushed out by Cabinet colleagues who feared his stubborn refusal to leave would bring them all down.
Schembri has since been charged with money laundering and other financial crimes. His case is being presided over by a magistrate who has made controversial decisions that resulted in one corrupt ‘person of trust’ going free and another fugitive being released on bail.
The US State Department sanctioned Schembri and Mizzi and barred them from travelling to the US based on “credible information of direct or indirect involvement in significant corruption”. In Malta, they remain untouchable.
Joseph Muscat was driven from power by a month of mass protests. He claims he “paid the political price” for Daphne’s murder by losing his job as prime minister and his ambition to become EC President.
He walked away with a €120,000 golden handshake that he gave himself. He’s now being investigated for receiving suspicious payments from a company linked to the Vitals Global Healthcare deal, but it remains to be seen whether anything will come of it.
As for the family empires that cashed in on the Electrogas deal with millions of euros in spurious “success fees”— the Fenechs, Gasans and Apap Bolognas — they’ve faded back into the shadows, too.
Malta has once again slipped through the cracks thanks to its size and global insignificance.
The toothless European Union is unable to rein in its smallest Member State, and a global pandemic followed by Germany’s self-imposed energy crisis have eclipsed the rule of law in the realm of continental concern.
The United States, the country that polices money laundering in the world’s reserve currency, is preoccupied with its own social strife and the war in Ukraine.
In Malta, the monthly vigil for Daphne Caruana Galizia has shrunk to those same stalwart individuals who fought for justice from the beginning. The crowds that drove Joseph Muscat from office went home long ago, and the disgraced former prime minister continues to protect himself and his accomplices from the shadows.
A couple months before she was killed, Daphne wrote:
“Maltese society is essentially criminal. That is how it grew and survived. Read your history. The last thing we need is to embrace it in the way we are doing now. If we continue to embrace criminality, to make excuses for it […] then we might as well stop pretending, go the whole hog, and watch while all the decent young people fly out never to return — and Malta turns into 1930s Chicago (quite frankly, it’s there already) or 1980s Palermo.”
Five years after her brutal murder, another of her predictions has come true.