Prime Minister Robert Abela chose a recent political event in Żejtun to brag about the police force’s efficiency, particularly when it comes to tackling organised crime. He then sparked controversy by declaring that court judgements should reflect that same efficiency and courage.
The Prime Minister, many have reminded him since, has no business telling Malta’s judiciary what they should or should not be doing. Nor does he have any business discussing such matters with a magistrate, as he also said he had done.
Against that backdrop, the suggestion of an efficient police force working tirelessly, only for their efforts to be scuttled by the courts, strikes a particularly jarring note.
And with good reason. In the face of all the evidence of our institutions’ repeated failures, the best answers that Robert Abela and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri can come up with when they’re reminded of these growing concerns are partisan jibes and empty rhetoric.
The efficiency that Abela was referring to was connected to the arrest of Jeremie Camilleri, who is being charged with the murder of Turkish interior designer Pelin Kaya. She was killed after Camilleri ploughed into her with his car in Gzira in between hitting a petrol station and a fast-food restaurant.
“We cannot have a police corps that is working tirelessly but is demoralised when it sees its work fade to nothing when court sentences are handed down,” Abela told the party faithful.
Here are a few examples of the police force’s ‘tireless efficiency’ Abela is speaking about.
Failure to act
One of the most glaring examples of the failure to enforce a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was that of Iosif Galea, the former Malta Gaming Authority compliance officer, who received sensitive insider information from the regulator and passed this on to “interested parties”.
Galea was facing money laundering and tax evasion charges and was arrested while on holiday in Italy on the strength of a German arrest warrant. The police in Malta were legally responsible for stopping him, but they didn’t – for over a year.
Before Iosif Galea, there was the case of Ryan Schembri, the former boss of the defunct More Supermarket chain, who surreptitiously left Malta as early as 2014. The police only issued an international arrest warrant seven years after Schembri had absconded.
The Economic Crimes Unit failed to act against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri despite a hand-delivered report from the then-head of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.
Moreover, the police still haven’t prosecuted the top brass of Pilatus Bank despite receiving clear orders to do so after a 2021 magisterial inquiry.
In January, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa was rebuked by the Courts for what should have been an open and shut case of a man caught red-handed hunting illegally on a public holiday. The case was so badly botched that the Judge criticised Gafa’s police in her judgement.
Whatever Abela may say at political events, there’s not much the Courts can do when the police or the state advocate continue to commit procedural errors, often leaving the presiding judge or magistrate with little choice but to dismiss the case, sometimes after a case has been heard piecemeal over several years.
We have an abundance of examples. From Ryan Murdock’s Kafkaesque experience to more serious cases like that of a man who struck and killed a motorcyclist with his car and was dismissed on a technicality because the police charge sheet contained four mistakes — even though the driver had admitted he was at fault.
Cooperation (or lack thereof)
Over the years, our law enforcement authorities have proven to be a headache for Italian law enforcement’s efforts to fight organised crime – crime that has found a facilitating, if not symbiotic, environment in Malta.
In 2017, when Italian investigators were cracking down on several mafia-related businesses that had moved their gaming franchises to Malta, the chief anti-mafia prosecutor of Catanzaro Nicola Gratteri lamented that “it is easier to work with Peru or Colombia than with Malta”.
Andrea Bonomo, the prosecutor in Catania who led an Italian investigation into the oil smuggling trade, also said: “We have attempted several times to collaborate with Maltese authorities on the oil-smuggling investigation, with several international requests for information, but they have gone unanswered for 18 months.”
In 2021 a US State Department report concluded that Malta had failed to meet the minimum standards in the fight against human trafficking and noted how in that year, “the government did not report cooperating in any joint international trafficking investigations or extraditing any trafficking suspects.”
Unfortunately, our law enforcement authorities have not only amassed an abysmal track record of failing to arrest and effectively prosecute (or, when requested, extraditing) alleged criminals, but they’ve also acquired the reputation of bungling even the simplest of cases and being uncooperative with their European counterparts in tackling organised crime.
All these examples could easily support Transparency International’s analysis that countries with high CPI scores are more resilient to the threats posed by organised criminal groups. But, at the same time, state legitimacy is undermined in those Countries where impunity is fuelled by corruption.
As Malta continues to slide down the corruption perception index, the report noted how in Malta, a “state of impunity persists with no convictions in cases of high-level corruption”, and more needs to be done to ensure greater independence and resourcing of the Maltese justice system to uphold the rule of law.
…..and that is the Truth.
“and more needs to be done to ensure greater independence and resourcing of the Maltese justice system to uphold the rule of law.” A mild reflection I would say, a more robust response would have been, the incompetents and buffoons from the AG downwards including the COP should be placed in a zoo where the public can stand in awe of the creatures that are meant to be running a justice system but who belong with the apes and monkeys who likely have more intelligence.
We have a maqjei parliament [as per anglu] and a pajjiz mizbla thanks to the MOST CORRUPT EX pm and his ex consultant. Shame on the Maltese greedy bastards who ruined our island’s image.
And will continue for some time yet, whilst the Mafia rule the country.