It has been seven months since the discovery of a protected artefact at Minister Anton Refalo’s private residence in Qala, but the police are yet to press charges against the veteran Gozitan politician.
The Shift is reliably informed that no charges have been filed against the minister as yet, even though he has publicly admitted to having a Victorian-era stone marker at his house. The agriculture, fisheries and animal rights minister has so far failed to explain how a protected piece of Malta’s history came into his possession.
Contacted by The Shift to explain why action has not been taken against Refalo, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ said he could not answer the question as he was precluded by law from giving out any such information.
Legal sources, however, have insisted with The Shift that this was just Gafa’s “excuse” to protect the minister as the Force, even under Gafa’s command, has very often officially answered similar questions, particularly when it comes to foreign nationals. This is in addition to the regular leaks from senior officers to specific mainstream journalists.
Just a few weeks ago, Gafa’ told The Shift that the police “were still investigating” Refalo’s case.
The Shift is also informed that to have illegally acquired the protected artefact, there had to have been other people close to Minister Refalo’s secretariat involved, including those who had actually transported the stone marker to the minister’s residence.
It is not known whether the police are also investigating these persons or whether they will be issuing charges against them.
Minister Refalo is also being protected by Kurt Farrugia, the politically-appointed superintendent of cultural heritage, who is duty bound by law to ensure criminal action is taken against those caught in the illegal possession of national heritage.
Following The Shift’s revelations last February, Farrugia has confirmed that the illegal artefact was indeed found in the minister’s residence following an inspection.
However, since then, Farrugia went completely silent, refusing to answer any questions on the issue.
According to the provisions of the Cultural Heritage Act, if charged and found guilty, Minister Refalo faces either a fine of not less than €2,000 and not exceeding €250,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years.
Asked to state whether he has received any court summons, Minister Refalo and his spokesperson, Estelle Bonello Sant, refused to reply.
Since the discovery of the protected piece of heritage in Minister Refalo’s illegal possession, Prime Minister Robert Abela has not commented on the case despite his mantra that ‘institutions are working’.
Instead, Abela re-appointed Refalo to his Cabinet after the last elections.
It is known that relations between Abela and Refalo are somewhat strained as the prime minister is more inclined toward the agriculture minister’s rival Clint Camilleri.